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The percentage of male, Latino and Black high school seniors who want to go to college has declined in the last three years.

YouthTruth, a nonprofit, surveyed 22,000 members of the Class of 2022 and compared the results with a similar survey of the Class of 2019, the last high school class to predate the pandemic.

Among the results:

  • The percentage of Latino students who want to go to college dropped from 79 percent to 71 percent.
  • The percentage of Black students who want to go to college dropped from 79 percent to 72 percent.
  • The percentage of all male students who want to go to college dropped from 74 percent to 67 percent.

In the Class of 2022, 76 percent of white students said they want to go to college, 79 percent of Middle Eastern or North African students said they do, and 88 percent of Asian American students do.

Among women in the class, 82 percent want to go to college.

A key factor in examining the students, the report says, “The graduating class of 2022 has lived more than half of their high school career during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What do the students who don’t want to go to college plan to do instead?

“Uncertainty lingers, but not equally,” the report says. “Compared to their peers, a higher percentage of Hispanic or Latinx students—14 percent—are unsure about what they expect to do next, while a lower percentage—just 9 percent—of seniors who are white face such uncertainty."

Of all high school seniors, 47 percent plan on attending a four-year college. But the numbers are sharply different when factoring in race and ethnicity.

After you finish high school, what do you expect to do next? Proportion of Class of 2022 answering "attend a four-year college" broken down by race and ethnic group.

The report also includes specific figures that may be of concern to community colleges, which enroll large percentages of Black and Latino students.

Over all, the percentage of students who said they intended to attend a community college fell over three years from 25 percent to 19 percent. These students are more likely to be Latino than white (27 percent versus 15 percent), more likely to be a person of color than not (22 percent versus 17 percent) and more likely to attend a high-poverty high school than a low-poverty high school (27 percent versus 18 percent).

Deborah A. Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education, which is focused on Latino education, said it’s important to consider the labor market (very low unemployment) when looking at the numbers.

“We are seeing this deferring of higher education as an option in communities where community college was more the option as they are considering work instead,” she said. “The opportunity cost of going to college for low-income, first-gen Latino students, and especially for men of color, is much more acute right now with inflation, low unemployment and increasing costs of going to college. We do think institutions need to be more cognizant of this and helping to meet students where they are at by offering learning-and-earning opportunities or more clear pathways to the workforce.”

The results suggest another difficult year for most colleges with enrollment.

To date, the Ivy League and similar institutions (and a few others) are having great admissions years. And the most competitive colleges, public and private, are expecting a great freshman class this fall, based on their applicants. But many other institutions do not. And there are already signs that this may be another difficult year for most colleges that are not competitive in admissions. The National Association for College Admission Counseling, as of Tuesday, lists 367 colleges that are still accepting applications to enroll in the fall.

Gay Students

The study also explored the experiences of gay and transgender high school students.

“A higher percentage of students who are transgender—37 percent—report that they’ve seriously considered dropping out as compared to students who do not identify as transgender, at just 16 percent,” the report says. “Additionally, a higher percentage of students who are non-binary or gender non-conforming—39 percent—and students who prefer to self-describe or self-identify their gender—32 percent—report having seriously thought about dropping out of school, compared to just 17 percent” of female students and 16 percent of male students. “Finally, just over one in four of today’s seniors who are members of the LGBTQ+ community—26 percent—report that they’ve seriously considered dropping out of school as compared to just 14 percent of their peers, a gap that reminds us that these students in particular have, in other research, reported experiencing being ‘pushed out’ of school.”

Shane Mendez Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, an organization that works on creating safer college environments for LGBTQA+ people, said his group as early as 2010 was documenting the mistreatment of gay high school and college students, so he was not surprised by the findings.

“We must do better,” he said. “We have to do better in high school and in college to support academic retention and success of LGBTQ+ students across all intersections of identity.”

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