Hawai'i State News

Report: Class of 2023 high school graduates persist amid pandemic obstacles

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Findings from the newly released College and Career Readiness Indicator report sheds light on the accomplishments and unprecedented challenges faced by high school graduates who were in high school during pandemic shut down.

Produced annually by Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education, in collaboration with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education and the University of Hawaiʻi, the Class of 2023 report details the achievements of 11,538 students across 65 public schools including public charters.

Despite facing the hurdles of distance learning for approximately half of their high school years, 33% of students from the Class of 2023 graduated with honors and 86% of the cohort graduated on time. 

Additionally, participation in the dual credit program reached all-time highs, with 24% of graduates taking at least one dual credit University of Hawai‘i college class, and 16% earning six or more college credits by graduation. Seventeen percent of graduates earned advanced placement scores of three or better, the highest level since the start of the pandemic. 

In 2017, the first year the Seal of Biliteracy was offered, only 37 graduates earned the Seal. The Class of 2023 had 557 graduates earning this honor, representing a 15-fold increase. Completion of Career and Technical Education programs remained steady with 64% of Hawai‘i State Department of Education graduates taking at least two courses in a Career Pathway. The top three Class of 2023 Career Pathways were Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation (23%); Cultural Arts, Media and Entertainment (21%); and Health Services (19%).


The college going rate for the Class of 2023 remains flat from the prior year with only 51% of the graduates attending college the first fall after high school graduation. Of particular concern is the post-pandemic drop in college access among economically disadvantaged graduates: Only 40% of these Class of 2023 graduates went to college immediately after high school, down from 44% for the Class of 2019.

“While the college going rate to four-year schools is slowly recovering from the pandemic, we are concerned that fewer graduates are going to community college, especially at UH’s seven campuses. UH Community Colleges are affordable on-ramps to four-year universities, and offer two-year and certificate programs that enable graduates to find great jobs right here at home,” said Stephen Schatz, the executive director of Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education. “While it’s popular in 2024 to say that college isn’t worth it, that’s just not true. Most jobs in Hawaiʻi that pay a life-sustaining wage require more education or training than a high school diploma.” 

In a study that evaluated the workforce earnings of University of Hawai‘i students who earned two- and four-year degrees, the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization found that nine years after completing a college degree, students who received Pell grants (i.e., proxy for socio-economic status) earned wages similar to their non-economically disadvantaged peers, mitigating the effects of intergenerational poverty.

Throughout their lifetimes, a college degree holder earns a 27% higher income, or $2.8 million more in wages for a bachelor’s degree and $2.7 million more, or a 22% higher income, for an Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degree, when compared to students who stopped out and did not earn a degree.


“The data is clear that there is significant value to earning a college degree,” said David Lassner, University of Hawai‘i president.  “College graduates, even those who have been economically disadvantaged, enjoy increased earnings over their lifetimes and many other benefits.  Higher education is the most effective pathway to break generational poverty and create opportunities for thriving families and communities.”

Academic readiness is a key predictor of college access and success, and academic readiness as measured by the ACT will continue to be monitored. The percentage of students who completed the ACT increased to 74%, a 13% increase from last year. The ACT metrics illustrate that overall test-taking is on the rise but has not yet reached pre-COVID pandemic levels.

“This year’s CCRI [College and Career Readiness Indicator report] for the graduating class of 2023 showcases the progress that our students have made across the state in the past year, and impresses upon us the urgency of the academic recovery from the pandemic,” said Tammi Chun, deputy superintendent of Hawaiʻi State Department of Education. “While we are seeing academic achievement nearing return to pre-pandemic levels, as measured by test scores, our post-high outcomes continue to be impacted.

“College — whether pursuing a career and technical field at community college or a bachelor’s degree at a university — is one pathway for graduates to pursue their career and community aspirations. We want all graduates to have the skills and knowledge for post-high success,” Chun continued. “Although the Class of 2023 were faced with challenges of the pandemic, the data demonstrates various positive outcomes such as more graduates earning college credit, earning the Seal of Biliteracy and earning CTE [Career and Technical Education] honors.”


Join a virtual webinar to more thoroughly review the Class of 2023 College and Career Readiness Indicator results on March 27 at 9 a.m. to find opportunities to strengthen the high school to postsecondary pipeline. 

Register for the webinar at: hawaiip20.link/Class-of-2023-CCRI-Webinar

Hawai‘i’s College and Career Readiness Indicator reports are continuously recognized by national organizations, including the Data Quality Campaign, Achieve and the National Governors Association, as a leading example of collaboration between K-12 and higher education and for providing useful information on college readiness. 

To view additional metrics online:

  • Full College and Career Readiness Indicator Reports


  • College and Career Readiness Indicator web metrics


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