Data Set: Maps of College Enrollment Rates in California’s Counties

These maps provide measures of college enrollment patterns of recent high school graduates in California. They are based on the county where students attended high school and subsequent enrollment in public colleges and universities anywhere in the state. Private colleges account for about 20 percent of all undergraduate enrollments in California, but current data on county of origin for private college students is not fully available.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the maps is the large county variation in college enrollment rates. Regional patterns are apparent in some of the measures, but certainly not all. We have not analyzed the causes of these regional differences. PPIC’s report Defunding Higher Education: What Are the Effects on College Enrollment? provides a detailed analysis of statewide changes in enrollment rates.

The first map shows public high school graduates only; all other maps include both public and private high school graduates.

Map 1 shows the percent of recent high school graduates completing the college preparatory courses (known as the "a-g” courses) required by the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) systems. County a-g completion rates vary by more than two-fold. Completion rates are highest in the Bay Area, suburban Sacramento (Yolo and El Dorado counties), Los Angeles County, and San Diego County.

Map 2 shows the percent of recent high school graduates attending any public college or university in the state. In most counties of the state, at least 40 percent of high school graduates attend one of the state’s public colleges. Low rates of college enrollment are found in quite a few less populated and rural counties, but two large metropolitan areas (Fresno and the Inland Empire) also have low rates of college enrollment.

Map 3 shows the percent of recent high school graduates attending a community college in California. The majority of students who attend a public college or university in California attend a community college. In 51 of California’s 58 counties, enrollment into community colleges is greater than enrollment in UC and CSU combined. The exceptions are six Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara) and Fresno County.

Map 4 shows the percent of recent high school graduates enrolling in CSU. Large variation across counties is at least partly a reflection of the location of the 23 CSU campuses, with high rates of enrollment in Fresno County (Fresno State University), much of the Bay Area (San Francisco State University, San Jose State University, and California State University East Bay), and Butte County (Chico State University). Low rates are found in numerous counties without a CSU campus.

Map 5 shows the percent of recent high school graduates enrolling in UC. Counties with or near UC campuses have the highest rates, with the exception of Merced County.

Map 6 shows the percent of recent high school graduates enrolling in either UC or CSU. The Bay Area and Yolo County stand out as having the highest rates of enrollment in one of the state’s public universities.

Map 7 shows changes in enrollment rates to UC and CSU over the past few years. Data is shown only for the state’s most populated counties (those with at least 1,000 high school graduates per year). Declines in enrollment rates are evident for all counties except Stanislaus, Madera, and Kings. The steepest declines have occurred in the Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego, a possible reflection of the increasing difficulty of gaining admission to campuses in those areas.

Data details

The data for these maps are drawn from two principal sources: the California Department of Education and the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC). Although CPEC is no longer a state agency, its database is currently maintained by the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges. For all maps the reference year is 2010, except as noted below. In the 13 counties (Amador, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Inyo, Lassen, Mariposa, Modoc, Mono, Plumas, Siskiyou, Trinity, and Tuolumne) that had fewer than 500 high school graduates in 2010, data were combined over a five year period (2006 through 2010). Due to highly variable annual rates, data for Butte County were also combined over the five year period. For the state’s two smallest counties, Alpine and Sierra, the number of high school graduates is so few that rates are not meaningful and are not reported (Alpine County had one high school graduate in 2010, Sierra County had 42). For each map, the denominator is the number of high school graduates by county of graduation. Map 1 is restricted to public high school graduates only; all other maps include both public and private high school graduates. The number of private high school graduates in 2010 was not yet available from CPEC. We estimated the number separately for each county by applying the ratio of private to public high school graduates in 2009 to the number of public high school graduates in 2010. In Map 1, the numerator is the number of graduates completing the college preparatory courses (known as the a-g courses) required by UC and CSU. In all other maps, the numerator is the number of recent high school graduates enrolling in the specified California public college system. The college enrollment data, obtained from CPEC, is reported by the colleges to the state. Data from UC and CSU appear to be well reported. In the case of community colleges, districts report separately and coverage is less than universal; that is, not all districts provide data for all years. In cases with missing and/or highly irregular data, we imputed values by county based on simple linear interpolations. If the missing data was for the most recent year (2010), we used 2009 values.

Please contact Hans Johnson for further information, including tables that contain the values used to generate the maps.

This research was supported with funding from the Donald Bren Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation.

Map 1 Percent of Recent High School Graduates Completing A-G Courses
(692.8 KB, PDF)

Map 2 Percent of Recent High School Graduates Attending a Public College in California
(802.6 KB, PDF)

Map 3 Percent of Recent High School Graduates Attending a Community College in California
(804.0 KB, PDF)

Map 4 Percent of Recent High School Graduates Enrolling in CSU (California State University)
(802.5 KB, PDF)

Map 5 Percent of Recent High School Graduates Enrolling in UC (University of California)
(802.0 KB, PDF)

Map 6 Percent of Recent High School Graduates Enrolling in UC or CSU
(800.7 KB, PDF)

Map 7 Change in Percent of Recent High School Graduates Enrolling in UC or CSU, 2007 to 2010
(702.1 KB, PDF)

Map Key to Counties
(533.5 KB, PDF)

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