College attendance rates decrease amid the pandemic

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The rate of Arizona high school graduates attending college is dropping. To learn more about why this troubling trend is happening, we spoke with John Arnold, Executive Director of the Arizona Board of Regents.

When looking at the rate of high school graduates planning to attend college, the Arizona Board of Regents looks at two populations.

“We look at the students who have just graduated from high school and then we look at the students who graduated from high school six years ago and we look at what they are doing post high school, ” Arnold said.

Something that the board noticed was that high schoolers who graduated in 2020 were the lowest rate of individuals to seek secondary education after high school.

“We’re looking at students who go on to a four year setting, a two year setting, so community college or even seeking certificate programs,” Arnold said.

He added that in 2019, about 53% of Arizona’s high school graduates sought post high school education. In 2020, Arnold said, it dropped to about 46%.

“So, pretty significant impact we believe from the pandemic. In comparison, nationally, about two-thirds of all high school graduates seek post high school education,” Arnold said.

Arizona traditionally trails in seeking college education compared to the national average. Now, the rate is even lower than normal.

“There’s been a national decline in college-going especially among young men. We think that the pandemic exacerbated that,” Arnold said.

He shared that several colleges decided to have their classes taught fully remotely in Fall of 2020. And the board believes a number of students put off starting their freshman year for that reason.

John Arnold, Executive Director, Board of Regents

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