High School Dropout and Completion Rates (SY 2016)

December 21, 2018

“Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2018”. Dropping out of high school has significant negative impacts on students. Statistically, they will have lower earnings than high school graduates, are more likely to be unemployed, have poorer health, and have a higher rate of incarceration.  This report provides a detailed analysis of long-term dropout and completion trends and student characteristics of high school dropouts and completers.  The first measure examined was the “event dropout rate” which is the percent of students who drop out in grades 10-12 without a high school diploma or alternative credential. The event dropout rate for SY 2015-16 was 4.8%, which translated into 532,000 students.

The 40 year trend show an alarming lack of progress.  While 2015-16 was lower than in 1976 (5.8%), it reflects a worsening over the last ten years (increasing from 3.8% to 4.8%).  Of all of the student demographic data, the clearest impact was that of family income. Students from the lowest income families had a 7.2% dropout rate compared to 3.9% for highest income families. The “adjusted cohort graduation rate” for 2015-16 was 84% which showed steady improvement over the past five years.  The main problem is the significant differences in graduate rates across race, economic status, states, and disabilities.  For example, graduation rates for white students ranged from 76% in New Mexico to 94% in New Jersey; black students from 57% in Nevada to 88% in West Virginia; Hispanic students from 65% in Minnesota to 89 % in Vermont.


McFarland, J., Cui, J., Rathbun, A., and Holmes, J. (2018). Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2018 (NCES 2019-117). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved December 14, 2018 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch.