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College Enrollment Decline - 6/12/14

While some may bemoan recent data indicating that college enrollment is no longer rising as it had been, the fact that more people are opting to enter the workforce immediately after high school graduation may be an indication of recent economic improvement.  U.S. college enrollment accelerated during the recession, at least in part because of a difficult employment market that held little promise. 

As pointed out in a recent piece by Moody’s Analytics, as the unemployment rate for high school graduates approached 12 percent, more people chose to enter or stay in school, which pushed the percentage of college-enrolled high school graduates to an all-time high of 70 percent for the class of 2009. 

With the economy improving more recently, the share of high school graduates attending college has slipped, down to around 66% for the class of 2013, the lowest percentage recorded in a decade.  The class of 2013 represents the third decline over the past 4 years, bringing the cumulative reduction in the share of high school graduates attending college to 4.2 percentage points.  This is not without precedent.  The percentage of high school graduates moving straight to college declined during the late 1990s, but then began to rise during the recession of 2001.

Anirban Basu, Chariman Chief Executive Officer of Sage Policy Group (SPG), is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's leading economic consultants. Prior to founding SPG he was Chairman and CEO of Optimal Solutions Group, a company he co-founded and which continues to operate. Anirban has also served as Director of Applied Economics and Senior Economist for RESI, where he used his extensive knowledge of the Mid-Atlantic region to support numerous clients in their strategic decision-making processes. Clients have included the Maryland Department of Transportation, St. Paul Companies, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Players Committee and the Martin O'Malley mayoral campaign.