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2008 Spotlight

Community College

Part B. Community College Students' Short-Term Persistence or Attainment Rate

The BPS Longitudinal Study is designed to collect data related to persistence in and completion of postsecondary education programs. It surveys a nationally representative sample of students who are enrolled in a postsecondary institution for the first time, regardless of when they completed high school. All individuals in BPS were initially surveyed through the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) to find out how they and their families pay for education beyond high school. These same students are then surveyed after 3 years through BPS to find out about their undergraduate experiences, persistence in school, and degree completion.34

The most recent national data from the 2003–04 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, First Follow-up (BPS:04/06) allow us to describe the 3-year persistence or attainment rate for community college students who enrolled for the first time as freshmen in a community college in 2003–04. This subpopulation of community college students differs from the subpopulation just considered (in part A) in that it includes community college students who did not enter college immediately after high school. Besides immediate enrollees, it includes students who delayed enrollment in college for any period of time. Thus, in contrast to the subpopulation examined in part A, this subpopulation includes students of a wider age range with more “nontraditional” student characteristics.35

In 2006, about 50 percent of students who began at a community college in 2003–04 were still enrolled in college (either in the same school or having transferred to a new school),36 6 percent had completed a degree or certificate program and left college, and 45 percent had left college without completing a degree or certificate program (see table SA-25).37 A greater percentage of these first-time freshmen at community colleges than first-time freshmen at public 4-year institutions or at private not-for-profit 4-year institutions had left school in 2006 without completing a degree or certificate program (45 vs. 17 and 16 percent, respectively) (see figure 18).

Yet, many community college students have no intention of getting a degree or other credential; thus, for such a comparison, it is important to consider community college students' academic intentions. This special analysis compares the short-term persistence or attainment rate of community college students who intended to transfer to a 4-year college with those of community college students who intended to complete an associate's degree, who intended to earn a certificate, and who had no intention to earn a degree or certificate. Such a comparison reveals that community college students who intended to transfer to a 4-year college had a higher persistence or attainment rate than those who had no specific academic intentions (see table SA-25). Still, however, the percentage of students who had left school by 2006 without completing a degree or certificate program was higher among 2003–04 community college freshmen who intended to transfer to a 4-year college than among all 2003–04 freshmen at public 4-year colleges and universities and all 2003–04 students at private not-for-profit 4-year institutions (39 vs. 17 and 16 percent, respectively) (see figure 18).

Comparing community college students' persistence or attainment rate by their attendance status reveals that students who always attended college full time had higher rates of persistence or attainment than students who always attended part time. Yet, the persistence or attainment rate for students who alternated between full- and part-time attendance was higher than either those for full-time or part-time students.


34 The BPS:04/06 First Follow-up in 2006 with 2003–04 first-time freshmen is the earliest logical timeframe to measure associate degree attainment and transfer rates to 4-year institutions among full-time community college students. However, it is not a sufficient timeframe to capture degree attainment for part-time students or to measure any bachelor degree attainment. For these reasons, this special analysis focuses primarily on persistence rather than attainment. (back to text)

35 See footnote 3. (back to text)

36 About one-fifth of students who began at a community college in 2003–04 and who were still enrolled in college in 2006 (10 percent of all beginning community college students in 2003–04) had completed a degree or certificate program. About four-fifths of students who began at a community college in 2003–04 and who were still enrolled in college in 2006 (40 percent of all beginning community college students in 2003–04) had not completed a degree or certificate program. (back to text)

37 While this statistic can serve as a measure of “event dropouts,” it is important to keep in mind that some community college students may never have intended to get a degree and that some of these students may eventually return to college to complete a degree. (back to text)

Figures and Tables

Figure 18: Percentage distribution of first–time undergraduates in 2003–04, by persistence or attainment rate, control and type of postsecondary institution, program plans, and attendance status: 2006

Table SA-25: Percentage of 2003-04 beginning postsecondary students who in 2006 were still enrolled and/or had completed a degree or certifi cate program at any postsecondary institution, by control and type of institution, program plans, and attendance status

Table SSA-25: Standard errors for the percentage of 2003–04 beginning postsecondary students who in 2006 were still enrolled and/or had completed a degree or certificate program at any postsecondary institution, by control and type of institution, program plans, and attendance status

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