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BPS: Executive Summary Descriptive Summary of 1995-96 Beginning Postsecondary Students: Six Years Later
Types of Institutions Attended
Degree Completion Among Students Beginning at Public 2-Year Institutions
Types of Bachelor's Degree Completion Rates for Students Beginning at 4-Year Institutions
Rates of Completion at the First Institution Attended Versus at any 4-Year Institution
Rates Based on Different Subcategories of Students
Focus on Students With a Bachelor's Degree Goal at 4-Year Institutions
Degree Completion and Transfer From the First Institution Attended
Number of Years to Complete a Degree at Different Types of Institutions
Differences in Completion Rate by Enrollment Patterns and Student Characteristics
Profile of 1995-96 Beginners Who Completed a Bachelor's Degree by June 2001
Summary and Conclusion
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Rates of Completion at the First Institution Attended

When 4-year colleges and universities report their graduation rates, they are reporting the percentage of first-time freshmen who completed a bachelor’s degree at that institution within a certain time period. Institutions usually do not know what happened to the students who left without a degree. When students leave an institution, they may either leave postsecondary education permanently or transfer somewhere else. From the institutional perspective, all students who leave before completing a degree at that institution are considered to be dropouts. From the perspectives of students as well as of the postsecondary education system as a whole, transfers are not dropouts: they are persisting students who have decided to attend a different institution. In this report, the term institutional completion rate is used to describe bachelor’s degree attainment of students at the first institution they attended, and the term student completion rate is used to describe bachelor’s degree attainment anywhere, regardless of whether or not students stayed at the original institution.

Among all beginners at 4-year institutions in 1995–96, 51 percent completed a bachelor’s degree within 6 years at the first institution attended. However, when those who transferred out of the first institution are also included, the percentage of beginners who actually completed a bachelor’s degree within 6 years (at any 4-year institution) increases to 58 percent.

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education