Colorado’s high school graduation rate continued to improve in 2017, dropout rate remained stable

Written by: Erica Manoatl
Date Posted: January 26, 2018

In 2017, slightly more Colorado high schoolers graduated with a diploma than the year before, setting them on a firmer path toward further education and better career options. Graduation rates increased across all racial and ethnic groups, but unfortunately significant gaps still exist between students of color and their peers due to historical policies and practices that create barriers to education based on race and ethnicity. We’re encouraged by the news last week, and we know there is a lot of work to do increase graduation rates among students facing the most barriers to success.

The Colorado Department of Education last week released the four-year graduation rate for Colorado’s class of 2017: 79 percent of high school students in the state graduated on time, the highest rate reported since 2010, when the department began using their current methodology. This rate reflects that 858 additional students graduated from Colorado high schools in 2017 than in 2016, when the rate was 78.9 percent. The state’s dropout rate remained at 2.3 percent last year, the same percentage reported in 2016. In the last seven years, the dropout rate has seen an overall decline from 3.1 percent of students.

Colorado's Graduation and Dropout rates, 2010 to 2016

The graduation rates among almost all racial and ethnic groups of students have improved since 2010, though disparities continue to exist. Specifically, rates for Hispanic or Latino students, American Indian and Alaskan Native students, and black or African-American students have increased dramatically. Between 2010 and 2017, the graduation rate among Hispanic students increased by 15.6 percentage points, from 55.5 percent of students graduating on time to 71.1 percent. In the same time frame, the rate of American Indian/Alaskan Native students increased by 14 percentage points, from 50.1 percent of students to 64.1 percent, and the graduation rate of Colorado’s black or African-American students increased by 8.2 percentage points, from 63.7 percent of students to 71.9 percent.

Graduation rate by race and ethnicity 2010 to 2016

Dropout rates have also fallen for almost all racial and ethnic groups in the state since 2010 and 2011. Dropout rates capture students in grades seven through 12 who leave school during the year and fail to enroll at another school or program.

Dropout rates by race and ethnicity selected years


Research demonstrates that graduating from high school is linked to better health outcomes and increased earnings long-term. For young people in our state, attaining a high school diploma can have significant impacts on their contributions to the economy, workforce, and markers of public health. It is important to continue to support all high school students as they work toward graduation, and to continue to narrow graduation and dropout gaps between students of color and their white peers.

Erica Manoatl

About Erica Manoatl

Erica Manoatl is the Research Analyst for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she supports the organization’s research priorities, data analysis, and writing in all issue areas. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from George Washington University and a Master of Public Health in Population and Family Health from Columbia University.