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Oklahoma high school and college graduates rate increasing

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The gap between the number of Oklahoma high school and college graduates compared is as wide as it used to be, a new survey shows.

The percentage of Oklahomans with a high school education increased nearly 4 points to 83.3 percent between 2002 and 2003, the 2003 American Community Survey found.

The percentage of Oklahomans with at least a bachelor's degree increased more than 1 point to 21.9 percent.

Both increases exceeded the national averages for the one-year period, but 33 states still have higher percentages of high school graduates than Oklahoma.

Ben Hardcastle, director of communications for the state regents, said the reported gains are good news but cautioned against getting too excited.

Still, Oklahoma college enrollment is at record levels, and state regents are expecting to see an increase when fall enrollment numbers come in soon, he said.

``We're increasing in percent of students in college, and then there's this survey result. All those are positive indications,'' Hardcastle said Monday.

While the numbers of high school and college graduates increased, the number of high school dropouts in Oklahoma decreased, according to the annual survey of 800,000 households nationwide.

About three in 25 Oklahomans were high school dropouts at the time of the 2003 survey, compared with about three in 20 the year before.

State schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said one reason for higher educational attainment is that Oklahomans who grew up in the years after statehood, when many people left school after eighth grade, are passing away.

``Look at it longitudinally. As those people pass away, they go off the census and we're making up for that lost ground,'' Garrett said.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have lower percentages of high school graduates than Oklahoma, the survey estimates.

Alaska has a 91.2 percent high school graduation rate, while Mississippi's rate is 77.4 percent.

Nationally, 83.6 percent of people over age 25 are high school graduates, the survey estimates.
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