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PEDAR: Executive Summary  Waiting to Attend College: Students Who Delay Their Postsecondary Enrollment
An Overview of Delaye Entrants
High School Dropout Risk Factors and Academic Preparation
Duration of Delay
Student Characteristics
Enrollment Characteristics
Why They Enrolled
Overall Persistence and Attainment
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)

Delayed entrants are by definition older than students who enroll in postsecondary education immediately after graduating from high school. Therefore, delayed entrants would be expected to have gained life experiences related to age such as family formation. Yet in addition to these experiences, the findings from the NPSAS data illustrate sharp contrasts between delayed and immediate entrants in terms of other demographic characteristics. Compared with students who enrolled in postsecondary education immediately after high school graduation, delayed entrants were more likely to come from low-income families,4 to be single parents, to be Black and were less likely to be White (figure A). Delayed entrants also were more likely than immediate entrants to be Hispanic, American Indian, to have parents who never attended postsecondary education, and to speak a language other than English as their primary language (table 1).

Students who delay their postsecondary enrollment are more likely than those who do not delay to follow a postsecondary enrollment path focused on vocational training and short-term programs. For example, in 1999–2000, compared with undergraduates who enrolled immediately after high school, delayed entrants were more likely to attend public 2-year colleges and private for-profit institutions (figure B). Similarly, delayed entrants were more likely than immediate entrants to be enrolled in programs leading to vocational certificates and associate’s degrees and less likely to be in bachelor’s degree programs (figure C). Postsecondary attendance and work patterns also differed between the two groups. Delayed entrants were less likely (or able) to attend classes on a full-time basis (figure D) and were more likely than immediate entrants to work more than 30 hours a week while enrolled in school (figure E).

Taken together, these findings from the NPSAS data, which provide a snapshot of all undergraduates in 1999–2000, indicate that delayed entrants begin their postsecondary education at a relative disadvantage compared with their peers who enroll in postsecondary education immediately after high school graduation. They are more likely to come from low-income families, their parents are less likely to have attended postsecondary education, and they are more likely to have family responsibilities of their own. Once they enroll in postsecondary education, delayed entrants spend less time attending classes and more time working while enrolled and are more likely to pursue vocational training and short-term credentials.

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