High School Benchmarks
With a Gap Year College Enrollment Analysis for Class of 2020
National college progression rates for high schools participating in the National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker service
December 1, 2021
This ninth annual report provides the most current data on high school graduates’ postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion outcomes. These data are the most relevant benchmarks for monitoring and evaluating progress in assisting students to make the high school to college transition and earn a credential in a timely manner. The current report examines college enrollment for the high school graduating class of 2020, persistence for the class of 2018, and completion for the class of 2014. Large gaps persist between higher- and low-income high schools on all fronts.
Examining Class of 2020 Gap Year Enrollment
As part of our continued efforts to provide up-to-date enrollment information during the COVID-19 pandemic, this report features a special analysis of gap year enrollment for 2020 high school graduates (those who did not immediately enroll in college after high school but rather waited until fall of 2021) compared to the pre-pandemic patterns. The loss of immediate college enrollment in fall 2020, as previously reported in March, did not lead to an expected upswing in gap year enrollment in fall 2021.
Key National Findings
- Very few 2020 high school graduates took a gap year. Of those who did not immediately enroll in fall 2020, only 2.0 percent made their way back to college in fall 2021. This gap enrollment rate has remained low, regardless of high school characteristics.
- The pandemic’s effect as reported in our March preliminary report is now confirmed with the universe of high schools participating in the Clearinghouse. The rates at which the 2020 class enrolled in college in their first fall have fallen considerably compared to the previous class. The disparity in their immediate enrollment rates also grew wider within groups (defined by income, poverty, and minority levels) compared to the class of 2019.
- Once enrolled, 88 percent of students from higher-income high schools returned to their second year in college, compared to 79 percent from low-income high schools.
- Students from low-poverty high schools were nearly three times as likely to complete college within six years of high school graduation (60% vs. 24% for high-poverty schools). Similar disparities are also found among locale, minority level, and poverty level.