Almost one in five young Tulsans are entering adulthood without a high school diploma.
Percentage of four-year high school graduates, 2013-2016

Read more from our 2017 Community Impact Report.




High school graduation rates for Tulsa County are up again this year. Eighty-four percent of the region’s class of 2016 students graduated from high school on-time, which equates to 91 more students than the previous year. There have been significant increases since 2013 among African American and Hispanic populations. African American students have an accumulated increase of 10%, and Hispanic students have seen a 6% increase.


Earning an on-time high school diploma is only one indicator of a student’s readiness for college and career. Another is how well students do on common postsecondary entry exams. During their junior year, Oklahoma students take the ACT or SAT to assess their academic readiness. In the Tulsa area, 5,147 students took the ACT and 1,308 students took the SAT.


Of the students who took the ACT, 19% met all four benchmarks. Fifty-four percent met the English benchmark, 43% reading, 29% science, and 32% math. On the SAT, 21% of participating students met all benchmarks. Forty- five percent met reading and writing, and 23% met math.


For every student who does not graduate high school, it costs the community approximately $260,000 in wages. In 1973, 28% of jobs required a postsecondary credential. By 2020, that number will be 65%.



Academic preparedness represents the minimum required of students to participate in an increasingly complex labor market. A study of increasing and shrinking occupations since 1980 shows that social and math skills grew as a share of all jobs. Employers are increasingly demanding teamwork and problem-solving skills in addition to knowledge.


Helping high school students develop occupation-related social skills and identify career goals provides a perfect opportunity for businesses, nonprofits, and community members to partner with school districts. Parents and community members can help students explore postsecondary and career options, understand the coursework required to reach their goals, and create a post high school plan.


Percentage of high school graduates enrolling in Oklahoma colleges, 2015
TCC Concurrent High School Enrollment
Tulsa Tech Secondary Student Enrollment (Full-Time)

Read more from our 2017 Community Impact Report.




The Tulsa region’s economic competitiveness depends on its ability to develop and retain a highly skilled, knowledge-based labor pool. Most Tulsans will need some postsecondary training beyond high school by 2025 to have a shot at a middle-class living standard.


Over half—53%—of 2015 high school graduates enrolled in public and private Oklahoma colleges in the fall of their graduating year. An additional 2% or a total of 55% enrolled within a year of their graduation.


The enrollment numbers in this report do not include out-of-state colleges. ImpactTulsa typically reports both in- and out-of-state enrollment through the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), but we were unable to make a reliable match this year due to collection changes. We will return to NSC data in next year’s report.



Just over 39% of entering postsecondary students are required to take remedial courses before enrolling in college-level coursework. Remediation costs students approximately $22 million annually.


In the United States, less than half of postsecondary education students graduate in six years. In a series of Public Agenda reports, students age 22 to 30 list four primary reasons for delaying or dropping out of postsecondary education.


  • stress of work, family, and study
  • inability to nance coursework
  • arbitrarily selecting a postsecondary institution that did not align with their goals
  • uninformed about the future impact of dropping out


Work-related issues made the top of the list. Forty- five percent of college students attending four- year institutions in the U.S. work 20 hours a week. Six out of ten community college students work 20 hours, and 25% work more. Twenty-three percent of college students have children.


When asked what would help them succeed, students listed advice as a primary need. They need guidance on careers and how to select the right postsecondary institution and help navigating the postsecondary system. Advice can come from high school and higher education counselors, but it can also come from business, civic, and other community groups. Aligning community strategies like mentoring and career pathways will ensure students have the support they need to succeed.


Completing the FAFSA form is the passport to help a graduate attain a postsecondary credential.


ImpactTulsa feels strongly that given the postsecondary access programs and debt free options available in Tulsa County and the state as a whole, ensuring more students are completing FAFSA forms would have a substantial impact on the number of students entering and subsequently completing a postsecondary program.


See more about FAFSA completion here.