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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."

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