Hawaiʻi high school class of ‘23 overcomes pandemic obstacles in college preparedness


According to the newly-released College and Career Readiness Indicator (CCRI) report, 33% of students from the class of 2023 graduated with honors, the highest in at least five years, and 86% graduated on time, tying the high mark over the past five years.

Despite the challenges that the class of 2023 faced related to the COVID-19 pandemic, recent data shows that Hawaiʻi high school students reached the highest marks in recent years while also earning more college credit, multiple language proficiency and Career and Technical Education (CTE) honors.

According to the newly-released College and Career Readiness Indicator (CCRI) report, 33% of students from the class of 2023 graduated with honors, the highest in at least five years, and 86% graduated on time, tying the high mark over the past five years.

Additionally, participation in the dual credit program reached all-time highs, with 24% of graduates taking at least one dual credit University of Hawaiʻi college class, and 16% earning six or more college credits by graduation. Seventeen percent of graduates earned advanced placement scores of 3 or better, the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

Concerns about college access

The college going rate for the class of 2023 remains flat from the prior year with 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 Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education (Hawaiʻi P–20) Executive Director Stephen Schatz. “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.”

The class of 2023 had 557 graduates earning the Seal of Biliteracy (students who have demonstrated a high level of proficiency in both of the state’s two official languages, English and Hawaiian; or either of the two languages and at least one additional language, including American Sign Language, by high school graduation), up from 37 graduates in 2017, the first year it was offered.

Completion of CTE programs remained steady with 64% of Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE) 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%).

"This year's CCRI 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. 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 bachelors 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," said Tammi Chun, Deputy Superintendent of Hawaiʻi State Department of Education. "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 honors."

Produced annually by Hawaiʻi P–20, in collaboration with HIDOE and UH, the class of 2023 report details the achievements of 11,538 students across 65 public schools including public charters.

UH degrees significant return on investment

In a study that evaluated the workforce earnings of UH students who earned two- and four-year degrees, the UH Economic Research Organization found that nine years after completing a college degree, students who received Pell grants 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 UH President David Lassner. “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.”

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