In 2013-14, the most recent year available, graduation rates climbed to an all-time high, with 82.3 percent of students graduating in four years. As a result of the progress made over the past decade, nearly two million additional young people have graduated from high school. These young people have strengthened their chances of earning a postsecondary credential and higher future wages.
Despite these gains, for the first time in four years the nation is slightly off pace to reach the goal of a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2020. When the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) hit 80 percent in 2012, calculations showed that the national graduation rate would need to increase by roughly 1.2 percentage points per year to achieve 90 percent by the Class of 2020. Between 2013 and 2014, the nation missed this mark and will now have to average closer to 1.3 percentage points in gains over each of the next six years to reach the goal.
Raising the graduation rate from its current 82.3 percent to 90 percent would require graduating an additional 284,591 students. In order to graduate these additional students, schools, districts, and states will have to focus on getting significantly more students of color, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and low-income students on track to earning a diploma.
The gap in graduation rates clearly exposes an equity issue. Currently, only 74.6 percent of low-income students graduate on time. For the nation to achieve a 90 percent graduation rate, about 264,000 – roughly 93 percent – of the additional graduates will need to be from among low-income students.
This infographic compares state-by-state graduation rates among all students and among low-income students. In every state, low-income students graduate at a lower rate than their higher income peers. In nine states, the difference was 20 percentage points or more. Of low-income students who graduate high school, considerably fewer enroll in college the next fall, compared to middle- and high-income students.
We must do more to support low-income students in high school, and set them on a pathway to graduation. Gateway to College exists to give all students a second chance to earn their high school diploma and college credit, and we remain committed to opening opportunities for students to gain increasingly critical postsecondary credentials.