PHOENIX –Less than half of high school graduates in Arizona decided to pursue postsecondary education last year, continuing a trend that has education leaders concerned.
The Arizona Board of Regents Postsecondary Attainment Report for the fiscal year of 2021 found 46.3% of Arizona’s high school graduating class of 2020 enrolled in a two- or four-year college, a nearly 7% drop from 2019.
It marks the third straight year the number of graduates in Arizona going to college fell, and the first in the last 10 years in which a majority decided not to pursue postsecondary education.
The increase in graduates with no postsecondary enrollment last year was likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as numbers fell across the country, but the state was already not keeping pace before the onset of COVID-19 with the report saying Arizona “significantly trails the national average.”
It was also found that among the 2015 Arizona high school graduates, 27.4% completed a two- or four-year degree program after high school. That marks a decrease from the 2013 and 2014 classes that both had a postsecondary completion near 30%.
Considering Arizona’s low college enrollment and completion rate, along with the high school completion rate that ranks among the bottom quartile in the country, the report said only 16.8% of today’s freshmen will graduate from a four-year college in 2029 if trends stay on the current trajectory.
"Barring a change in the trajectory of postsecondary enrollment, the Arizona workforce will not be equipped to meet the demands of the state's growing economy," ABOR Executive Director John Arnold said in a press release.
"As a state, we need to improve our college-going culture or Arizona's long-term economic health is at risk."
It was also found there is a significant gap between Arizona schools, with the top Arizona high schools educating 8.7% of graduates and producing 21% of those who enrolled in a four-year college.
There wasn’t much of a difference for students who did pursue postsecondary education in 2020 deciding on a four-year college, but two-year college enrollment fell by just over 6% year-over-year to 17.9% as opposed to the 28.3% year-over-year of four-year colleges.
Those high school graduates who decided to go to a four-year college stayed close to home, with 68.3% pursuing a four-year degree at an Arizona public university.
The report also noted college enrollment of Black high school graduates increased in 2020 while enrollment of Hispanic graduates stayed the same and enrollment of Native American graduates decreased.