Persistence and Attainment After 5 Years
For postsecondary administrators designing programs to help keep nontraditional students in school, it is important to understand when students most frequently leave postsecondary education. Figure 5 shows the annual attrition rates of students who began their postsecondary education in 1989–90—that is, the percentage who left without returning, transferred downward, or stopped out for more than 4 months.
Among nontraditional students seeking bachelor’s degrees, 27 percent interrupted their enrollment in their first year, compared with 14 percent of traditional students (figure 5). The annual attrition rate was lower in subsequent years but remained higher than the rate for traditional students until the fourth year. Among those seeking an associate’s degree, 46 percent of nontraditional students left in their first year, compared with 23 percent of traditional students. The gap closed somewhat in the second year, but not after that. Among certificate seekers, nontraditional students were more likely than traditional students to leave in their first year (43 versus 23 percent). There was no difference thereafter, but many certificate programs do not require more than a year to complete.
Although one might expect students with family and work responsibilities to be more likely than their traditional peers to take breaks in their enrollment, that was not the case. Among nontraditional and traditional students who left their first institution, the percentages who left but returned later were similar (26 and 28 percent, respectively) (figure 6). The rest of the leavers were different, however. Traditional students who left their first institution were more likely than their nontraditional peers (40 versus 27 percent) to transfer downward (in part because more started at 4-year institutions). In contrast, nontraditional leavers were more likely than traditional ones to leave without returning (47 versus 32 percent).
Figures and Tables
Figure 5: Annual attrition rates of 1989–90 beginning postsecondary students, by initial degree objective: 1994
Figure 6: Percentage distribution of beginning postsecondary degree seekers who left their first institution according to the type of leaving, by student status: 1994
Table FS5: Standard errors for the annual attrition rates of 1989–90 beginning postsecondary students, by initial degree objective: 1994
Table FS6: Standard errors for the percentage distribution of beginning postsecondary degree seekers who left their first institution according to the type of leaving, by student status: 1994