Indiana’s College-Going Rate sharpest Year-Over-Year Decline

With just over half – 53 percent – of Indiana high school graduates in the class of 2020 having pursued education beyond high school, Indiana’s college-going rate experienced its sharpest year-over-year decline and dropped to its lowest point in recent history.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education released data that show the college-going rate of the first high school cohort impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – the class of 2020 – declined 6 percentage points from the prior year.

The Commission’s College Readiness Report shows the previously incremental decline in the percentage of students going directly from high school to some form of college – less than one-year certificates up through four-year degrees – accelerated in 2020, likely due to the impact of the pandemic. In five years, the total decline is 12 percentage points

The decline in the college-going rate in 2020-21 equates to about 4,000 fewer high school graduates going to college than the year before. This drop was absorbed almost entirely by Indiana’s public colleges as nearly the same number of Indiana high schoolers went to private or out-of-state colleges as in the previous year.

While the overall decline impacted every student demographic, some student groups experienced greater effects from the pandemic, and equity gaps have increased.

Even though the state’s overall college-going rate has declined, several factors reveal a stronger likelihood for students to go to college, including students who are 21st Century Scholars. The Scholars program is Indiana’s early college promise program, founded in 1990, which allows income-eligible students to enroll in seventh or eighth grade and earn up to four years of college tuition in Indiana for free.

Eighty-one percent of Scholars go to college, compared to the statewide average of 53 percent. Similar trends exist for students earning dual credit or Advanced Placement credit while in high school (62 percent go to college) and students earning Academic Honors diplomas (86 percent).

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