WASHINGTON — Nearly two-thirds of U.S. students who graduated from high school last year attended college in the fall--but the percentage was down from the record-breaking 1997 class, the Labor Department reported last week.
Of the 2.8 million students who graduated from high school in 1998, about 1.8 million, or 65.6%, were attending college in October. In 1997, a record 67% of graduates went on to college.
The enrollment rate of young women, 69.1%, continued to exceed that of young men, 62.4%.
"Young women are particularly getting the message," said Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman.
She noted the rise of the unemployment rate for the students who dropped out, to 28% in 1998 from 20% in 1997.
"The message to America's young people is clear: What you learn has a direct and significant impact on what you earn," Herman said.
Labor Department numbers--based on a survey of about 50,000 households--date to 1960, when 54% of male high school graduates and 38% of female high school graduates went directly to college.
In the 1970s, enrollments dropped, and they remained flat in the early 1980s. Later in the decade, enrollments rose again.