Where California High School Students Attend College

Where California High School Students Attend College
Michal Kurlaender
University of California, Davis
Sherrie Reed Bennett
University of California, Davis
Kramer A. Dykeman
University of California, Davis
Matthew Naven
Washington and Lee University
Francisco (Paco) Martorell
University of California, Davis
Scott Carrell
University of California, Davis


For as much as we know about the economic benefits of a college degree, California policymakers and educators have little information about the college destinations of high school graduates. To fill this information gap, we assembled a unique data set of three recent cohorts of public high school students matched with college enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse. This report, a product of a partnership with the California Department of Education, details where California public high school students attend college and how college attendance and destinations vary by county.

  • Among California public high school students, 63% enroll in college following high school graduation.
    • 26% of high school students enroll in a four-year college.
    • 37% of high school students enroll in a two-year college.
  • Among California public high school students who enroll in college:
    • 28% enroll in public four-year campuses in-state (18% at CSU, 10% at UC).
    • 57% enroll in public two-year in-state community colleges.
    • 4% enroll in private in-state colleges, predominately four-year institutions.
    • 11% enroll in out-of-state institutions.
  • Only 7% of all high school students (or 11% of all students who enroll in college) leave the state to attend college after high school, these students reach every state in the nation.
  • Substantial disparities in college enrollment exist by student subgroups:
    • Female students are more likely to go to college, and more likely to attend four-year colleges, than male students.
    • Students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds enroll in college at lower rates than their more advantaged peers.
    • College enrollment, particularly by higher education sector, varies by race/ethnicity.
Suggested citationKurlaender, M., Reed, S., Cohen, K., Naven, M., Martorell, F., & Carrell, S. (2018, December). Where California high school students attend college [Report]. Policy Analysis for California Education.