February 2005

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

Minnesota's Post-Secondary Participation Rate Remains Strong

This issue of Insight looks at the 2003 college participation rates for Minnesota high school graduates. In fall 2003, 65 percent of Minnesota's approximately 64,000 recent high school graduates attended a post-secondary education institution in Minnesota or elsewhere. Slightly more than 50 percent attended a Minnesota institution and approximately 15 percent attended out-of-state. The participation rates are up slightly from the previous year.

College participation rates are defined as the number of high school graduates who enroll in a post-secondary education institution the fall after high school graduation. Minnesota's participation rate, which provides a glimpse of student behavior in the months following high school graduation, measures participation along just one short section of the state's educational pipeline. The rate provides an indicator of whether post-secondary education is accessible to a broad socio-economic range of high school graduates, as well as whether Minnesota and the nation are preparing people with skills to meet future workforce demands. (A detailed description of how rates are calculated can be found at the end of this report.)

Minnesota's Participation Rate Compared to the Nation
Participation rates for attendance at colleges within Minnesota increased from 42 percent in 1994 to roughly 50 percent in 2003. Over the same period, overall rates for attendance at Minnesota colleges and elsewhere increased from 56 percent to 65 percent. While the percent of students who leave Minnesota has remained relatively constant, national data suggests that as family income increases, so does the average distance a student will move to attend a post-secondary institution.1

Minnesota's fall 2003 participation rate of 65 percent is slightly above the national average for the most recent year available. Nationally, 62 percent of high school graduates immediately enrolled in a post-secondary institution in 2001.

Minnesota also compares well with other states in what are known as education transition milestones. Depending on the study, Minnesota ranks second2 or third3 nationally, behind New Jersey and North Dakota, in the chance ninth graders have of enrolling in college by age 19.

An analysis from The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which looked at not only the transition of ninth graders to college, but also their likelihood of obtaining a college degree, ranked Minnesota seventh among the states. For every 100 ninth grade students in Minnesota, 25 will eventually graduate with either an associate's degree within three years or a bachelor's degree within six years after enrolling in college. Using data from 2002 for all 50 states, Minnesota was ranked on the following four main transition points:

  1. Minnesota ranked fifth for ninth graders who obtained a high school diploma in four years.
  2. Minnesota ranked third for ninth graders who immediately entered higher education upon graduation.
  3. Minnesota ranked fourth for ninth graders who immediately entered higher education upon graduation who were still enrolled their sophomore year.
  4. Minnesota ranked seventh for ninth graders who immediately entered higher education upon graduation and eventually completed an associate degree within three years or a bachelor's degree within six years.

Regional Participation Rates
Participation rates varied in 2003 from a high of 56 percent in Region 9 (Mankato/Faribault) to a low of 44 percent in Region 8 (Pipestone/Redwood Falls). The rate for Region 11 (Minneapolis/St. Paul seven-county metropolitan area) was 51 percent. Because regional rates do not take into account high school graduates who attend institutions outside Minnesota, border counties may show lower rates than other counties. [ View regional table. ]

Participation Rates for Students of Color
The participation rates of Minnesota high school graduates of color attending college in Minnesota increased steadily from 45 percent in 1999 to 51 percent in 2003. The participation rates of Minnesota white students similarly increased from 46 percent in 1999 to 51 percent in 2003. Participation rates for various racial/ethnic populations can vary by several percentage points from year to year.

Participation Rates of Minnesota High School Graduates Enrolled in Minnesota Post-Secondary Institutions
by Racial/Ethnic Background, 2003

American Indian 42.3%
Asian and Pacific Islander 58.6%
Black 51.5%
Hispanic 40.0%
White, Non-Hispanic 50.7%

(Participation estimates for enrollment out-of-state are not available by race and ethnicity.)

From 1999 to 2003, the numbers of Black high school graduates increased 51 percent, compared to 38 percent for Hispanic, 30 percent for Asian, 15 percent for American Indian and less than 1 percent for white graduates.

From 1999 to 2003, the number of Minnesota recent high school graduates of color who enrolled in a Minnesota post-secondary institution increased 57 percent compared to 11 percent for white students. The number of black recent high school graduates enrolled in college increased 100 percent compared to 45 percent for Asian, 38 percent for Hispanic, and 26 percent for American Indian students.

Minnesota's population is becoming more diverse, whether through foreign immigration, natural population growth, or secondary migration from other states.

Participation Rates of Minnesota High School Graduates
by Racial/Ethnic Background, 2003

Black American Indian Asian Hispanic
Part Rate NES Part Rate NES Part Rate NES Part Rate NES

Total Students of Color White Total Est. Enrolled Out-of-State Total Enrolled Anywhere
Part Rate NES Part Rate NES Part Rate NES


NES: new entering students who graduated from a Minnesota high school the previous spring. Data are adjusted for missing values.

Estimated out-of-state enrollments are from the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS enrollment residency and migration data.

About Participation Rates
Participation rates are calculated by dividing the number of Minnesota high school graduates by the number who attended a Minnesota post-secondary institution the fall following their year of high school graduation. The numbers of high school graduates are obtained from the Minnesota Department of Education. 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 post-secondary institution, except while a secondary student, are used in calculating participation rates.

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 post-secondary students
  • Missing data on racial/ethnic identity of new entering post-secondary students
  • Missing data on racial/ethnic identity of all private high school graduates

Data on the number of students who attend a post-secondary institution out-of-state are obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS enrollment survey, collected biannually. Institutions report the state of residence of freshmen who graduated from high school during the past 12 months.

For more information on the process and methodology or participation rates in general, contact Alexandra Djurovich.


  1. U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B & B: 2000/2001) [ back ]
  2. "Chance for College by Age 19 by State 1986 to 2002." Postsecondary Education Opportunity. Oskaloosa, Iowa. Number 149, November 2004. [ back ]
  3. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. The Educational Pipeline Policy Alert. San Jose, California. April 2004. [ back ]

About the Office of Higher Education

The Office of Higher Education is a state agency providing students with financial aid programs and information to help them gain access to post-secondary education. The agency serves as the state's clearinghouse for data, research and analysis on post-secondary enrollment, financial aid, finance and trends.

The Minnesota State Grant program, which is administered by the agency, is a need-based tuition assistance program for Minnesota students. The agency also oversees tuition reciprocity programs, a student loan program, Minnesota's 529 college savings program, licensing and an early awareness outreach initiative for youth. Through collaboration with systems and institutions, the agency assists in the development of the state's education technology infrastructure and shared library resources.


Minnesota's Participation Rate Compared to the Nation

Regional Participation Rates

Participation Rates for Students of Color

About Participation Rates



College Prep Activity

College-going Activity by High School

Educational Attainment

Degrees Awarded in Minnesota

The Path from High School to College

1999 Minnesota High School Follow-up Survey

What percent of jobs in 2010 will require a college education?


Minnesota Department of Education high school graduation data

State Demographic Center, Estimates of Selected Immigrant Populations in Minnesota: 2004 [.pdf]

State Demographic Center, Minnesota Population Projections by Race and Hispanic Origin: 2000-2030 [.pdf]

State comparisons using six other measures of participation

National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education educational pipeline report [.pdf]

National Center for Education Statistics data on immediate transition to college

College Board, Education Pays 2004: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society [.pdf]

Institute for Higher Education Policy, The Investment Payoff: A 50-State Analysis of the Public and Private Benefits of Higher Education [.pdf]

Pell Institute, Indicators of Opportunity in Higher Education [.pdf]


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Alexandra Djurovich
Research and Policy Analyst

Barb Schlaefer
Director of Communications