A record 59 percent of graduates of the class of 1988—about 2.7 million—went on to college, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The number of college-bound seniors has remained roughly the same since 1975. The percentage has increased eight points during the past 15 years because the precollegiate school population is lower today than it was when the last of the baby boomers were going through high school.
No one knows why more of this generation’s graduates chose to attend college, but U.S. Labor Department economist Sharon Cohany ventures some guesses. “Generally, the labor force is better educated, and there is a perception on the part of high school students that many of the good jobs are accessible only through a college degree,” she says. “Also, community colleges are filling a large need, making it easier and more affordable for people to go to college.”
According to the Labor Department, 61 percent of white high school graduates chose higher education in 1988--an increase of almost 10 percentage points since the mid-1970’s. Hispanics held steady at 57 percent, with only a few minor fluctuations in college enrollment since 1975. Black college enrollment lagged far behind, but remained stable at 45 percent--a percentage point lower than in 1975.
All figures are based on the Current Population Survey, a monthly tally of 56,000 households. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent.
A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 1989 edition of Teacher as Class of ’88 Sets College Enrollment Record