This is a paradox. New federal data show that the four-year high school graduation rate is up to 82%. But at the same time, college-going rates are down.

The high school graduation rate is at a historic high. The state with the highest graduation rate is Iowa, at 91%. The jurisdiction with the lowest graduation rate is the District of Columbia, at 61%.

The 82% rate understates the proportion of students who receive a high school diploma. Reformers decided a few years ago to pay attention only to the four-year rate, without exception. This, students who graduate in August instead of May or June are not counted. Students who took five or even six years to get their degree are not counted. When the U.S. Census Bureau counts the percentage of high school graduates in the age range of 18-24, the numbers are much higher for every group because the U.S. Department of Education’s methodology excludes anyone who required more than four years to graduate.

Jon Marcus writes in “The Hechinger Report” about the decline in college-going rates, especially in community colleges and for-profit “universities.”

He writes:

“Enrollments at colleges and universities dropped for the eighth semester in a row this fall, down nearly 2 percent below what they were last fall, new figures show.

“The number of students over 24 continued to decline sharply—more than 4 percent—according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks this. Enrollment at four-year for-profit institutions plunged by nearly 14 percent.

“U.S. university and college enrollment has fallen 6 percent in the last four years….

“In all, U.S. university and college enrollment has fallen 6 percent in the last four years, even as policymakers push to increase the proportion of the population with degrees.”