High school graduation is one of the first and most important milestones in the life of a young man or woman. Unfortunately, not everyone makes it to this momentous day. There are a number of reasons why a person wouldn’t graduate – from having a less-than-ideal home life, working to help support the family, or even because they are homeless.

Fortunately, though, the United States Department of Education announced that the graduation rate nationwide has hit an all-time high. According to the department’s data, 84.6% of students earned a diploma at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

When broken down by state, Iowa has the highest graduation rate in the country. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, 91% of students in Iowa graduated from high school. New Jersey had the second highest rate at 90.5%, while Tennessee had a high school graduation rate of 89.8%.

On the other side of the coin, there are states with lower graduation rates. The lowest in the nation was found in New Mexico, where only 71.1% of students graduated from high school. The next lowest high school graduation rate was found in Washington, D.C., where the rate was just 73.2%.

It's very interesting to look at the graduation rates of various schools across the country because there are always different variables at play. First and foremost, the most available statistics regarding graduation rates in the nation only take public schools into consideration. It is more difficult to access information regarding high school graduation rates for students who attend private institutions because they are not run by the government.

But despite information not being easily accessible, it is a well-known fact that private schools have higher graduation rates than public schools. Class sizes tend to be much smaller in private schools because the school admissions councils have the power to control how many students are enrolled in the school. Public schools, on the other hand, do not have the ability to turn students away for any reason, so they have to find ways to accommodate all the students in the respective school zones.

There are many external factors that also influence the likelihood that students will graduate from high school. For example, the high school graduation rates of students who come from low income backgrounds are different from the graduation rates of students with disabilities. For perspective's sake, we'll start with a conclusive list of graduation rates in general for the public schools in each of the fifty states. Then, you can view the data for the high school graduation rates of low income children as well as high schoolers with disabilities, both of which put these school children at a disadvantage.

Graduation Rates in US Public High Schools for the School Year 2016-2017, in Percentages

By the end of the 2016 school year, the average graduation rate in the United States was about 84.6% and the individual states contributed to this total in the following ways...

Graduation Rates in US Public High Schools for the School Year 2014-2015, in Percentages

To provide some insight about how graduation rates have changed over the years, let’s look at the graduation rates in public schools during the 2014-2015 academic year.

  • Alabama 89.3%
  • Alaska 75.6%
  • Arizona 77.4%
  • Arkansas 84.9%
  • California 82.0%
  • Colorado 77.3%
  • Connecticut 87.2%
  • Delaware 85.6%
  • Florida 77.9%
  • Georgia 78.8%
  • Hawaii 81.6%
  • Idaho 78.9%
  • Illinois 85.6%
  • Indiana 87.1%
  • Iowa 90.8%
  • Kansas 85.7%
  • Kentucky 88.0%
  • Louisiana 77.5%
  • Maine 87.5%
  • Maryland 87.0%
  • Massachusetts 87.3%
  • Michigan 79.8%
  • Minnesota 81.9%
  • Mississippi 75.4%
  • Missouri 87.8%
  • Montana 86.0%
  • Nebraska 88.9%
  • Nevada 71.3%
  • New Hampshire 88.1%
  • New Jersey 89.7%
  • New Mexico 68.6%
  • New York 79.2%
  • North Carolina 85.6%
  • North Dakota 86.6%
  • Ohio 80.7%
  • Oklahoma 82.5%
  • Oregon 73.8%
  • Pennsylvania 84.8%
  • Rhode Island 83.2%
  • South Carolina 80.3%
  • South Dakota 83.9%
  • Tennessee 87.9%
  • Texas 89.0%
  • Utah 84.8%
  • Vermont 87.7%
  • Virginia 85.7%
  • Washington 78.2%
  • West Virginia 86.5%
  • Wisconsin 88.4%
  • Wyoming 79.3%

High School Graduation Rates for Low Income Students in America in 2014-2015

Now, here’s where we start to get more specific. The following is a list of all fifty states, and the percentage that follows refers to the high school graduation rates of students who are considered as coming from low income families.

  • Alabama 89.3%
  • Alaska 75.6%
  • Arizona 77.4%
  • Arkansas 84.9%
  • California 82%
  • Colorado 77.3%
  • Connecticut 87.2%
  • Delaware 85.6%
  • Florida 68.5%
  • Georgia 77.9%
  • Hawaii 78.7%
  • Idaho 81.6%
  • Illinois 78.9%
  • Indiana 85.6%
  • Iowa 87.1%
  • Kansas 90.8%
  • Kentucky 85.7%
  • Louisiana 88%
  • Maine 77.5%
  • Maryland 87.5%
  • Massachusetts 87%
  • Michigan 87.3%
  • Minnesota 79.8%
  • Mississippi 81.9%
  • Missouri 75.4%
  • Montana 87.8%
  • Nebraska 86%
  • Nevada 88.9%
  • New Hampshire 71.3%
  • New Jersey 88.1%
  • New Mexico 89.7%
  • New York 68.6%
  • North Carolina 79.2%
  • North Dakota 85.6%
  • Ohio 86.6%
  • Oklahoma 80.7%
  • Oregon 82.5%
  • Pennsylvania 73.8%
  • Rhode Island 84.8%
  • South Carolina 83.2%
  • South Dakota 80.4%
  • Tennessee 83.9%
  • Texas 87.9%
  • Utah 89%
  • Vermont 84.8%
  • Virginia 87.7%
  • Washington 78.2%
  • West Virginia 86.5%
  • Wisconsin 88.4%
  • Wyoming 79.3%

High School Graduation Rates for Students with Disabilities in America in 2014-2015

  • Alabama 72.4%
  • Alaska 57.0%
  • Arizona 64.4%
  • Arkansas 81.9%
  • California 65.0%
  • Colorado 53.8%
  • Connecticut 65.6%
  • Delaware 66.0%
  • Florida 56.8%
  • Georgia 54.3%
  • Hawaii 60.0%
  • Idaho 58.0%
  • Illinois 70.5%
  • Indiana 70.9%
  • Iowa 77.0%
  • Kansas 77.3%
  • Kentucky 66.0%
  • Louisiana 44.3%
  • Maine 74.0%
  • Maryland 63.9%
  • Massachusetts 69.9%
  • Michigan 57.1%
  • Minnesota 61.1%
  • Mississippi 30.7%
  • Missouri 76.6%
  • Montana 75.0%
  • Nebraska 71.0%
  • Nevada 29.0%
  • New Hampshire 73.0%
  • New Jersey 78.0%
  • New Mexico 59.3%
  • New York 52.9%
  • North Carolina 67.3%
  • North Dakota 68.0%
  • Ohio 67.0%
  • Oklahoma 75.6%
  • Oregon 52.7%
  • Pennsylvania 71.5%
  • Rhode Island 68.0%
  • South Carolina 49.0%
  • South Dakota 60.0%
  • Tennessee 70.0%
  • Texas 78.2%
  • Utah 67.9%
  • Vermont 72.0%
  • Virginia 52.6%
  • Washington 58.0%
  • West Virginia 69.0%
  • Wisconsin 67.5%
  • Wyoming 59.0%

There are only fifteen states and one federal district that have at least one school with a 100% graduation rate. The District of Columbia has one school from which 100% of the student body graduates, and the fifteen states with a 100% graduation rate in 2019 are...

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine

The number of schools in each state that had a 100% graduation rate in are as follows…

  • 5 schools in Alaska
  • 26 schools in Arizona
  • 13 schools in Arkansas
  • 55 schools in California
  • 14 schools in Colorado
  • 5 schools in Connecticut
  • 40 schools in Florida
  • 11 schools in Georgia
  • 12 schools in Idaho
  • 20 schools in Illinois
  • 14 schools in Indiana
  • 42 schools in Iowa
  • 3 schools in Kansas
  • 10 schools in Kentucky
  • 13 schools in Louisiana
  • 1 school in Maine
Rank State 2019 Population High School or Higher
1Montana1,029,86293
4Wyoming583,20092.8
3New Hampshire1,331,84892.8
2Minnesota5,490,72692.8
5Alaska738,56592.4
7Vermont624,63692.3
6North Dakota745,47592.3
8Maine1,330,15892.1
10Utah2,993,94191.8
9Iowa3,118,10291.8
11Wisconsin5,763,21791.7
12Hawaii1,421,65891.6
13South Dakota855,44491.4
14Colorado5,436,51991.1
15Nebraska1,893,92190.9
16Washington7,169,96790.8
17Kansas2,903,82090.5
19Massachusetts6,789,31990.3
18District of Columbia672,39190.3
23Oregon4,025,12790.2
22Michigan9,925,56890.2
21Idaho1,657,37590.2
20Connecticut3,594,47890.2
24Pennsylvania12,790,50589.9
26Ohio11,609,75689.8
25Maryland5,996,07989.8
27Delaware943,73289.3
29New Jersey8,960,16189.2
28Missouri6,075,30089.2
30Virginia8,365,95289
31Illinois12,854,52688.6
32Indiana6,614,41888.3
33Florida20,278,44787.6
34Oklahoma3,896,25187.5
35Rhode Island1,056,13887.3
36North Carolina10,052,56486.9
39Tennessee6,597,38186.5
38South Carolina4,893,44486.5
37Arizona6,809,94686.5
40Georgia10,201,63586.3
41New York19,798,22886.1
42West Virginia1,836,84385.9
43Nevada2,887,72585.8
44Arkansas2,977,94485.6
45Alabama4,850,77185.3
46Kentucky4,424,37685.2
47New Mexico2,084,82885
48Louisiana4,663,46184.3
49Mississippi2,986,22083.4
50Texas27,419,61282.8
51California38,982,84782.5