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Report: Rate of Hawaii Public School Students Enrolling in College Drops

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Virtual learning and the overall disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a decline in college enrollment from Hawaii's public school students.

According to the annual College & Career Readiness Indicators Report from the Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education, only 50% of Hawaii public school students in the class of 2020 immediately enrolled in college, down from 55% in 2019.

The drop was more dramatic when broken down by race and class. Thirty-eight percent of students from economically disadvantaged households enrolled in college in 2020, compared to 44% the year before.

Only 35% of students who identified as Native Hawaiian immediately enrolled in college, down from 44% in 2019. Twenty-nine percent of students who identified as Pacific Islander enrolled in college in 2020, down from 35% the year before.

However, the class of 2020 did have the highest on-time graduation rate ever, with 86% of students graduating in four years.

Last year, Hawaii P-20, the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii's community colleges created a program called Next Steps to Your Future to provide support for the class of 2020. That included free community college courses and career counseling.

There will be a similar program for the class of 2021, said Stephen Schatz, executive director of the Hawaii P-20 program.

"In some ways, we should be more worried about the class of 2021 than the class of 2020," Schatz said. "They had even more disruption to their educational program within the K-12. So we need to make sure that we collectively take action to support these students."

Jason Ubay is the managing editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Send your story ideas to him at jubay@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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