(WAFB) - More Louisiana students than ever are now graduating from high school.
According to the Department of Education, the statewide four-year graduation rate has increased 5.8 percent since 2012. The rate is up from 77 percent in 2012 to 78.1 percent in 2017. The graduation rate is also up 12.1 percent since 2008.
View the full report here.
The number of students earning college credit while in high school has also gone up. That rate is up to 48 percent from 43 percent in just one year. The Class of 2017 also saw an historic of students eligible for TOPS.
These gains come as diploma requirements in the state are becoming more rigorous for the Class of 2018. Students graduating this year will be required to choose whether to complete financial aid forms and must complete industry-based credentials if they choose to pursue a career diploma.
"More students than ever before are graduating, and more than ever before are completing college credit and industry credentials in high-wage fields. These positive gains reflect many years of relentless focus in our schools to equip more students for life after high school. We have a long way to go until the path to prosperity for every student, but today marks a big step forward," said State Superintendent John White.
Highlights from the Class of 2017:
- More than 78 percent of students in the Class of 2017 earned a high school diploma in four years, the highest in the state's history. Louisiana graduated 39,370 students last year, up from 38,859 in 2016. The number of graduates in the Class of 2017 is more than 3,000 greater than in the Class of 2013.
- The four-year cohort graduation rate increased by 1.1 percent between 2016 and 2017. Between 2012 and 2017, the rate increased by 5.8 percentage points.
- Historically disadvantaged groups of students are closing the gap with their peers. Nearly 73 percent of economically disadvantaged students graduated in this cohort, up from about 71 percent in 2016 and nearly 68 percent in 2013. Nearly 73 percent of African American students graduated in this cohort, up from about 71 percent in 2016 and nearly 66 percent in 2013. And more than 53 percent of students with disabilities graduated in this cohort, up from about 45 percent in 2016 and fewer than 37 percent in 2013.
- Forty-eight percent of the Class of 2017 earned early college credit or statewide career credentials valued in high-wage industries. That's up from 43 percent in 2016 and 37 percent in 2013. Of the 48 percent of the Class of 2017 who earned these credentials, 13 percent earned advanced credentials, such as passing an AP or CLEP test or earning a National Center for Construction Education and Research level-two credential in a craft trade. In 2013, just 4 percent of graduates earned advanced credentials.
- The Class of 2017 had more opportunities to access postsecondary education than any class before. Nearly 26,000 graduates in this cohort earned at least a score of 18 on the American College Test (ACT), up from about 25,000 in 2016 and 18,000 in 2012. More than 15,000 graduates in this cohort earned at least a score of 21 on the ACT, steady since 2016 and up from about 11,500 in 2012. More than 6,500 graduates in this cohort earned a qualifying score on an AP exam, up from about 5,900 in 2016 and 3,500 in 2013. The number of students earning a qualifying score on an AP exam has increased 137 percent since 2012.
- The number of students in the Class of 2017 eligible for a level of TOPS reached an all-time high. More than 19,200 graduates in the Class of 2017 achieved eligibility for at least one TOPS scholarship level, up from 18,373 in 2016 and 16,289 in 2012. The increase in eligible students marks a gain of 18 percent since 2012. The Class of 2017 was also the first class in state history to top 50 percent of all graduates qualifying for a TOPS scholarship, with 52 percent of graduates meeting the bar.
- A record number of students in the Class of 2017 completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to fund their postsecondary pursuits. Sixty-five percent of high school seniors completed the FAFSA by the July 1 priority deadline in 2017, an increase of 7 percent, or about 3,100 students, from the previous year. This number will increase for the Class of 2018, when the state's Financial Aid Access Policy goes into effect. To date, about 73 percent of the Class of 2018 has submitted the FAFSA. Louisiana is currently No.2 in the nation for the number of FAFSA completions and No.1 in the nation for gains since last year.
While Louisiana is making strides in education, gaps still exist among historically disadvantaged groups of students. For example, 39 percent of economically disadvantaged student in 2017 graduated with credentials, up from 34 percent in 2016 and 30 percent in 2013. And among African American students, 35 percent graduated with credentials in 2017, up from 31 percent in 2016 and 26 percent in 2013.