Enrollment Rates by Family Income, 1984–2008

The 25 percentage point gap in enrollment rates between the 2008 high school graduates from the highest income backgrounds (80%) and those from the lowest income backgrounds who enrolled immediately in college (55%) was the smallest for the 24 years for which data are available.

Figure 2.1: Postsecondary Enrollment Rates of Recent High School Graduates by Family Income, 1984–2008

Figure 2.1: Enrollment Rates by Family Income, 1984–2008

Notes & Sources 

Note: Based on enrollment in college within 12 months of high school graduation. Income quintiles are defined in terms of all households. In 2008, the upper income limits of the quintiles were: lowest, $19,000; 2nd, $35,000; 3rd, $55,050; and 4th, $88,230. High school graduates are not evenly distributed among income quintiles because graduation rates are lower among students from low-income backgrounds. Enrollment rates reflect moving averages, with the rate for each year the average of three years — the specified year and the two preceding years.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2010.

  • The college enrollment rate of high school graduates from the third quintile, with family incomes ranging from $35,001 to $55,050 in 2008, declined from 63% to 55% from 1998 to 2002, and was 61% in 2008.
  • The college enrollment rate of high school graduates from the two lowest income quintiles increased from 1998 to 2008.