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PEDAR: Executive Summary  College Persistence on the Rise? Changes in 5-Year Degree Completion and Postsecondary Persistence Rates Between 1994 and 2000
Introduction
Changes in Student Population
Changes in Student Borrowing
Changes in Degree Completion and 5-Year Persistence
Changes by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Income
Conclusions
Research Methodology
References
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
 Changes in Degree Completion and 5-Year Persistence

Table B summarizes the educational outcomes of students in the two cohorts in terms of their 5-year degree completion and persistence rates. The first column displays the percentage of students who completed any degree in 5 years (the sum of columns 2, 3, and 4). Columns 2, 3, and 4 show the rate at which students completed each type of degree (bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, and vocational certificate), while columns 5 and 6 display the percentage of students who had not earned a degree, but were still enrolled in either a 4-year institution or a subbaccalaureate institution. Column 7 shows the percentage of students who were not enrolled after 5 years and had not earned a degree. It is possible that these students resumed their postsecondary education at a later date (i.e., stopped out), but within the 5-year time frame of each survey, they had not earned a degree and were not enrolled. The last column of the table displays the combined 5-year degree completion and persistence rate (the sum of columns 1, 5, and 6), which, in other words, is the percentage of students who had completed a degree or were still enrolled 5 years after they began their postsecondary education. Where differences between the two student populations are statistically significant (p<.05), an asterisk appears next to the number for the more recent (1995–96) cohort.

The results indicate an increase in the percentage of students who had not yet completed a degree, but were still enrolled in a 4-year institution 5 years after first enrolling. These are students who are taking longer than 5 years in their efforts to complete a bachelor’s degree. This finding held across all institution types except those in the for-profit sector. Among all students who started in 1989–90, 8 percent were still enrolled in a 4-year institution, while among those who began 6 years later, 12 percent were still enrolled. The increase in enrollment after 5 years was accompanied by an overall decline in degree completion from 50 to 47 percent. However, for both cohorts, bachelor’s degree completion remained at about one-quarter among all beginning students and at about 53 percent among students who began in 4-year institutions.

Changes in persistence and completion rates varied across the institution types that students first attended. For example, among students who began in public 4-year colleges or universities, the likelihood of still being enrolled in a 4-year institution increased (from 16 to 21 percent). Commensurate with this, the combined degree completion and 5-year persistence rate went up as well (from 73 to 78 percent).5 This finding implies that given more time, the rate of bachelor’s degree completion in public 4-year institutions may increase. In private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, on the other hand, a change in the combined completion and persistence rate could not be detected even though the likelihood of still being enrolled in a 4-year institution increased measurably (from 7 to 11 percent).

Like students who first enrolled in the 4-year sector, those who started in public 2-year colleges increased their likelihood of being enrolled in a 4-year institution at the end of 5 years (from 5 to 10 percent). At the same time, comparisons between the two cohorts revealed no measurable change in either transfer rates from public 2-year colleges (figure 4) or bachelor’s degree completion of transfer students (table 12). Therefore, the fact that a greater percentage of transfer students are enrolled in a 4-year institution after 5 years suggests that public 2-year college students in the later cohort may have been more persistent in pursuing a bachelor’s degree. At the same time, however, the rate at which students in public 2-year colleges completed vocational certificates declined over the 6 years between cohorts, from 13 percent to 9 percent.


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education