Although college enrollment dipped during the pandemic, about 63% of recent high school graduates were enrolled in a college program for fall 2020. Where did that population of college enrollees attend school?
It’s no surprise that states with the largest populations also have the most college students enrolled. College enrollment strongly correlates with the number of postsecondary universities in a state, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The more populated and geographically large a state is, the more capacity it has to enroll students.
In fall 2020, six states enrolled more than 100,000 incoming college students. California, Texas, Florida, and New York had the most college students overall.
In-state universities are a popular choice for many prospective students. Lower tuition, scholarships and financial aid, and higher acceptance rates are a few examples of the benefits of attending college in-state. The number of first-time college students who attended school in-state varied.
In fall 2020, Alaska and Texas had the highest rates of first-time college students attending college in-state (over 90% for both states); 1,976 Alaska residents and 33,344 Texans were enrolled in different states. Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, DC, (31%, 24% and 9.1% respectively) had the lowest rates of residents attending college within the state or jurisdiction. About 1,941 Vermont residents stayed in-state for college compared to the 1,866 who left for college. In Washington, DC, only 893 residents stayed in-state for college, compared to the 2,572 who attended college elsewhere.
California had the highest number of residents leaving for college in fall 2020, with 42,819 residents going to college out of state. The number of non-residents moving to California for college in fall 2020 was smaller than Californians leaving the state for higher education, resulting in negative net student migration.
Net migration varied by state: Arizona experienced the largest positive net migration (16,790 students); New Jersey experienced the largest negative net migration (27,500 students) for the second consecutive year.
The most recent data available on traveling college students by state is from the 2020-2021 school year. Since fall 2020, the enrollment rate of first-time college attendees continued to decrease. As of Fall 2020, 62.7% of recent high school graduates enrolled in a college program that fall, a drop of 6 percentage points from pre-pandemic levels in the 2018-2019 school year.
College enrollment data by state represents the number of first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled in Fall 2020.
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