December 2009

A periodic newsletter on a single topic of interest published by the Office of Higher Education

Minnesota's 2008 High School Graduates Enrolled in College at Record Rates

Is it a sign of the economic times or the culmination of years of work to get more students into college?

Minnesota's college participation rate hit an all-time high in 2008 with 70.2 percent of the state's 65,220 high school graduates enrolling immediately in a public or private college after high school. Minnesota's college participation rate has gradually increased over time and has been among the highest in the nation. But 2008 was the first year 70 percent of the state's high school graduates enrolled immediately in college.


College Going Rates of Minnesota High School Graduates 1996 through 2008


Source: Minnesota public and private high school graduation rates from Minnesota Department of Education; in-state college enrollment from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education; out-of-state enrollment data from the U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Enrollment Survey


College participation rates are defined as the percentage of high school graduates who enroll in a postsecondary institution the fall after high school graduation. The rate provides an indication of whether postsecondary education is accessible to a broad socio-economic range of high school graduates. While the rate represents an indicator of college access and student choices, the rate highlights only one transition of a much longer education process spanning from kindergarten through postsecondary.

The number of Minnesota's high school graduates has leveled off somewhat. Projections indicate the number of high school graduates is not expected to increase in the next 10 years.

Where are students attending?
Of the 2008 high school graduates enrolling in college the fall following their high school graduation, 72 percent chose to stay in Minnesota and 28 percent enrolled out of state. Signaling an increasingly mobile population of young people, the percentage of high school graduates leaving Minnesota to attend college in another state has also increased steadily.

Specifically of the 45,776 Minnesota high school graduates in 2008, enrolling in college,

In Minnesota
  • 12,995 (or 28.5%) enrolled at a Minnesota community or technical college
  • 6,603 (or 14.5%) enrolled at one of seven state universities
  • 6,105 (or 13.4%) enrolled at a Minnesota private college
  • 5,636 (or 12.4%) enrolled at one of the four University of Minnesota campuses
  • 1,303 (or 2.8%) enrolled at a private career school in Minnesota
Outside Minnesota
  • 8,377 (or 18.4%) enrolled in colleges in bordering states of Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin
  • 4,383 (or 9.7%) enrolled in colleges outside the five-state region.

From 2007 to 2008, the percentage of high school graduates enrolling in Minnesota institutions remained constant, while the percentage of high school graduates enrolled outside Minnesota increased, with notable increases in the percentage of Minnesota resident high school graduates enrolling in the bordering states of North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Enrollment in neighboring states has increased in recent years.


Minnesota High School Graduates Enrolling in College in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin

of Grads

Source: U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Enrollment Survey


Participation Rates by Race and Ethnicity
Participation rates by race and ethnicity are only available for students attending Minnesota institutions, so a complete picture of college participation by race and ethnicity is not available. Within Minnesota, the participation rates of Minnesota high school graduates attending Minnesota institutions vary by race and ethnicity. Overall, however, the in-state participation of students of color has steadily increased over time. In fall 2008, there were 5,253 students of color enrolled in a Minnesota college who were recent Minnesota high school graduates; compared with 3,663 in fall 2004. The overall percent of high school graduate students of color increased from 13 percent in 2004 to 16 percent in 2008.

Of Minnesota's 65,220 high school graduates, 10,510 or 16 percent were students of color. Projections indicate that by 2015, students of color will comprise about 20 percent of Minnesota's high school graduates. The largest growth is expected to be in the number of Hispanic and Black graduates, two student populations with historically low college participation rates.

Because the numbers of high school graduates by race and ethnicity are small for some groups, fluctuation in the rates from year to year is expected. The chart below illustrates the most recent five-year average participation rate by racial or ethnic group.

Minnesota Only

Participation rates by race and ethnicity are only available for students enrolled in Minnesota colleges.


Five-year average college participation rates of Minnesota high school graduates who enrolled in a Minnesota postsecondary institution, fall 2004 to 2008

Note: These percentages do not include high school graduates who enrolled out of state.


2008 Minnesota High School Graduates In-State Enrollment by Race and Ethnicity and Institution Type

Note: The chart does not include 14,000 Minnesota high school graduates who attended out of state.
Source: Minnesota Office of Higher Education, 2009


Minnesota high school graduates who were American Indian, Black or Hispanic enrolled in public two-year colleges at higher rates than their white and Asian counterparts.

College Readiness
In 2006, Minnesota's college participation rate of 68.4 percent was the ninth highest rate in the country. No more current national comparisons are available. Fueled by the knowledge that some postsecondary education will be nearly essential for young people entering the workforce, Minnesota, like many other states, has undertaken various approaches to improve college readiness and participation.

College enrollment is up across the country and in Minnesota.

Dozens of state and federally funded college access programs operate at schools and within organizations across the state. Programs vary, but involve tutoring, college planning, college tours and information sessions.

The state provided high schools with additional funding to support the delivery of Advanced Placement courses in high school and rigorous courses online. Dramatic increases in participation and successful end-of-year test scores on AP tests have been the result.

Minnesota's average score on the ACT college entrance exam has increased gradually over the last 10 years. Minnesota 2009 high school graduates had the highest average score of any state where a majority of the students choose the ACT over the SAT.

Minnesota's P-20 Partnership, a collaboration of K-12 and college education leaders, lawmakers, policymakers, pre-kindergarten organizations and state government, have outlined college and career readiness expectations for all Minnesota students.

About Participation Rates
Participation rates are calculated by dividing the number of Minnesota high school graduates by the number who attended a Minnesota postsecondary institution the fall following their year of high school graduation. The Office of Higher Education's student enrollment record database contains data on students' year of high school graduation, state of residence and high school attended. New entering students, defined as not having previously attended a postsecondary institution, except while a secondary student, are used in calculating participation rates.

The numbers of high school graduates are obtained from the Minnesota Department of Education. Students who graduate from high school and delay college entry past the fall following high school graduation are not included in the participation rate. Data on enrolled students are revised to estimate missing information. Participation rates contain adjustments for:

  • Missing year of high school graduation of new entering postsecondary students
  • Missing data on racial/ethnic identity of new entering postsecondary students
  • Missing data on racial/ethnic identity of all private high school graduates

Data on the number of students who attend a postsecondary institution out of state are obtained from the U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS enrollment survey, collected biannually. Institutions report the state of residence of freshmen who graduated from high school during the past 12 months.

About the Office of Higher Education

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is a state agency providing students with financial aid programs and information to help them gain access to postsecondary education.

The Minnesota State Grant program, which is administered by the agency, is a need-based tuition assistance program for Minnesota students. Through collaboration with systems and institutions, the agency assists in the development of the state's education technology infrastructure and shared library resources.


Participation Rates by Race and Ethnicity

College Readiness

About Participation Rates


Participation Rates by Racial/Ethnic Background

College-Going Activity by High School

Minnesota Institutions Attended

Out-of-State Institutions Attended


National Data on Immediate Transition to College

College-Going Rates of High School Graduates by State


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Alexandra Djurovich
Research and Policy Analyst

Barb Schlaefer
Director of Communications