What’s in Store for the Class of 2016

Heidi Shierholz, US Department of Labor, May 9, 2016

High school seniors all over the country are preparing for their next steps after graduation. To get an idea what paths the class of 2016 may take, we can look at a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the choices made by last year’s grads.

Out of the 3.0 million young people who graduated from high school in 2015, 2.1 million (or 69.2 percent) were enrolled in college last fall. Close to two-thirds (63.5 percent) of those were enrolled in four-year colleges, while 36.4 percent were enrolled in two-year colleges.

When you look a little closer, enrollment rates vary widely by group. Because the sample sizes for some groups are small, we averaged the latest two years of data for racial and ethnic breakdowns in this post. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Women had a higher enrollment rate (72.6 percent) than men (65.8 percent).
  • For Asian graduates, 84.6 percent were enrolled, compared with 69.2 percent of white grads, 67.1 percent of Hispanic grads and 62.7 percent of African-American grads.
  • Almost all (91.6 percent) 2015 high school grads who were enrolled in college last fall were enrolled as full-time students.
  • More than a quarter (28.7 percent) of those full-time students also held a job.
  • Those enrolled part-time were, unsurprisingly, far more likely to also be employed – at 61.6 percent.

And what about 2015 grads who were not enrolled in college? The report shows that more than half (57.7 percent) found work. Combined with the statistics on college enrollment above, that means that 87 percent of 2015 high school grads were either enrolled in college, employed or both.

But that leaves 13.0 percent who were neither enrolled in college nor employed as of last fall. Broken down, the share of recent high school grads in this category was higher among women (14.3 percent) than men (11.7 percent), and higher among Hispanics (17.9 percent) and African-Americans (16.2 percent) than among whites (14.1 percent) or Asians (5.4 percent).

These findings underscore why we must continue connecting more Americans with training to give them the skills for good jobs. In addition to unprecedented investments in community college partnerships and apprenticeship over the past several years, the Obama administration recently announced another $100 million for America’s Promise Grants to support tuition-free training and education initiatives. These grants will help communities strengthen existing partnerships and programs, and create new ones, to give more Americans a pathway to the middle class.

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