This study examines the postsecondary education and employment pathways of Minnesota public high school graduates one year after graduation as well as their college certificate and degree attainment and employment outcomes six years after graduation. The study also explores differences in initial pathways, degree attainment, and employment outcomes for students with different characteristics.

Completing high school signals the start of a new journey for many young people. Within a year of high school graduation, most graduates will register for a postsecondary certification or training program, enroll in a postsecondary institution, enter the workforce, enlist in the military, or begin another endeavor. Over the past several decades, it has become increasingly important for high school graduates to pursue post-secondary training and education. Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce legislation, passed in 2013, calls for all students in the state to receive a high-quality education that prepares them for success in the workforce (Minnesota Department of Education, 2014).

To be well-positioned to reduce opportunity gaps that lead to different college and career outcomes, Minnesota policymakers and practitioners must have reliable data on the postsecondary pathways of Minnesota public high school graduates, as well as information on differences in pathways and outcomes across groups of students.

This study seeks to better understand the postsecondary pathways of Minnesota public high school graduates and to gain insight into opportunity gaps among those graduates. Alliance members expect to use the findings to direct interventions to specific student populations to increase postsecondary persistence and success in the workforce.

The study explored three research questions:

  1. What percentage of 2008–2015 Minnesota public high school graduates transitioned from high school to employment, college, or a combination of employment and college within one year of high school graduation?
  2. What was the highest college certificate or degree attained by 2008–2010 Minnesota public high school graduates six years after high school graduation?
  3. What percentage of 2008–2010 Minnesota public high school graduates were employed six years after high school graduation? What were their annual earnings?

Major Findings & Recommendations


  • Within one year of graduation, 92 percent of graduates were enrolled in college or employed. Initial postsecondary pathways varied by student characteristics but not by high school rurality.
  • Within one year of graduation, graduates with disabilities, graduates with limited English proficiency, Hispanic graduates, and American Indian/Alaska Native graduates were the most likely to be neither employed nor enrolled in college.
  • Six years after graduation,
    • 48 percent of graduates had not attained a college certificate or degree,
    • 37 percent had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher,
    • 11 percent had attained an associate degree, and
    • 4 percent had attained a college certificate.
  • Six years after graduation, 71 percent of graduates were employed, and their median annual earnings were $22,717.
  • Six years after graduation, there were differences in college certificate and degree attainment, employment, and median annual earnings by student characteristics, even among graduates who initially followed the same postsecondary pathway.


  • Expand access to college readiness opportunities for racial/ethnic minority students, economically disadvantaged students, students with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities.
  • Direct more intensive resources such as early college and career planning to students who are most at risk during the transition to postsecondary education and employment.
  • Share information with students about the earnings of past cohorts and about how earnings differed across postsecondary pathways.