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Fewer Public High School Graduates Went to College Amid Pandemic

University of Hawaii

HONOLULU — There was a drop in the number of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students who went to college last year after graduating from Hawaii's public schools, which a group of educational leaders attributes to the pandemic.

A report by the Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education shows that 35% of Native Hawaiians in the class of 2020 enrolled in college upon graduation, a decline from 44% for the class of 2019, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday. Figures for Pacific Islander graduates fell to 29% from 35%.

According to the report, Hawaii's public high schools had a record graduation rate in 2020 but far fewer graduates enrolled in college: 50% of last year’s graduating class went straight to college, down from 55% the previous year.

It was the steepest one-year dip ever recorded, the newspaper reported.

“The negative effects of the pandemic on educational progress in general are not equal across socioeconomic and demographic groups,” said Stephen Schatz, executive director of Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. “In particular, economically disadvantaged, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders saw some pretty precipitous declines in the college-going rate for the class of 2020.”

Schatz said the education community needs to act on the premise that the pandemic had an effect on all students' academic and mental health.

“Vital work continues to advance our high school graduates toward achieving their college aspirations, despite the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic,” DOE Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a statement.

Hawaii's report comes as the National Student Clearinghouse reported in December that the college-going rate across the country at the onset of the pandemic dropped to 28% from 35% in 2019.

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