(File photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Education Department study says the high school graduation rate nationally is the highest since 1976, but more than a fifth of students fail to get a diploma in four years.
Officials say the steady rise of students completing their education is a reflection of the struggling economy and a greater competition for new jobs.
The study released on Tuesday says that across the U.S., the dropout rate for male students was 3.8 percent. For females, it was 2.9 percent.
The dropout rate was higher among males in every state. The percentage gap between male and female dropouts was largest in Connecticut and Rhode Island, at 1.7 percentage points.
Many students who don't receive their diplomas in four years stay in school, taking five years or more to finish their coursework.
The national dropout rate was about 3 percent overall, down from the year before.