Off to School | The Perryman Group

Off to School

By: Dr. M. Ray Perryman
Published in syndication May 03, 2023

This week marked the deadline for first-year college applicants to many universities to decide about whether and where to enroll. It can be a very difficult choice involving a range of financial, educational, and emotional factors. Through high school, options are much more limited for most young people. Beyond that point, however, a vast number of paths emerge - full-time work, technical training programs, colleges and universities, and much more. Let's look at what recent high school and college graduates are doing.

Some 62% of the 2022 high school graduating class enrolled in colleges or universities (as of October 2022) according to recently released US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. That's about the same percentage as the prior year, but it's significantly lower than before the pandemic (66% in 2019). More young women enroll than men, with 66% and 57%, respectively. By race and ethnicity, enrollment rates were highest for Asians (72%), followed by Blacks (64%), Whites (62%), and Hispanics (58%). Seven in 10 of those who enrolled chose four-year colleges.

About 69% of recent high school graduates who did not enroll in college were in the labor force, compared to less than 42% of those who did not finish. Nearly 28% of students in four-year colleges and 41% of individuals in two-year colleges were working.

Of recent college graduates, about 25% were enrolled in school and 81% of those who were not enrolled were employed. A slightly higher proportion of recent associate degree recipients who were not in school were working.

In general, higher levels of educational attainment are associated with increased earnings and a lower probability of unemployment. Virtually all of the highest-paying fields require degrees or advanced degrees. At the same time, some occupations which require degrees don't pay all that well. There are also technical programs which lead to well-paying occupations in high demand such as dental hygienists, physical therapist assistants and other medical technicians, web developers, and various types of technicians and even truck drivers.

There is a wealth of information in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook (see, where it is possible to search on occupations by pay, entry-level education required, and numbers of new jobs projected in the future. It's a great free resource to help with the education and career decision process.

Education and career choices are clearly about more than money. Believe me, it's great to love what you do. It's also good, however, to have some information about future potential pay, job opportunities, and advancement prospects when considering a substantial investment of time and resources of the type required to pursue higher education. Best of luck to all of the soon-to-be graduates out there. We need you! Stay safe!