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Chapter 2. School-Related Characteristics

Indicator 22. Time to Completion for Undergraduate Students

Not all students who begin their undergraduate careers as full-time degree-seeking students finish their degree within the normal time.10  In fact, some 31 percent of males and 41 percent of females who began seeking a bachelor's degree at 4-year institutions in 2001 had completed their degree 4 years later. In the same cohort, about 54 percent of males and 60 percent of females completed their degree in 6 years or less. Rates of completion within 4, 5, or 6 years were higher for females than males. Differences were also apparent by race/ethnicity for male and female students who started at 4-year institutions in 2001. Among female undergraduates, Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest completion rate within 6 years (70 percent), followed by White (63 percent), Hispanic (51 percent), Black (46 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native students (42 percent).  Among male students, Asians/Pacific Islanders again had the highest completion rates within 6 years (63 percent), followed by 57 percent of Whites, 44 percent of Hispanics, 36 percent of American Indian/Alaska Natives, and 35 percent of Blacks. Across sex and race/ethnicity, with the exception of American Indian/Alaska Native males, the 6-year completion rate was higher for the cohort starting in 2001 than for the cohort starting in 1996.

The completion rates within 150 percent of normal time were significantly lower at 2-year than at 4-year institutions. For example, 26 percent of males and 30 percent of females who started in 2004 completed their associate's degree or certificate at a 2-year institution within 3 years (or 150 percent of normal time), compared with 54 percent of males and 60 percent of females who started in 2001 at 4-year institutions. For both males and females, Asians/Pacific Islanders who started at 2-year institutions in 2004 had the highest completion rates within 150 percent of normal time (28 and 33 percent, respectively), followed by Whites (27 and 30 percent, respectively); Blacks had the lowest completion rates (19 and 25 percent, respectively). The completion rate for males in 2-year institutions was lower for the cohort starting in 2004 than for the 1999 cohort (26 vs. 28 percent); for females, the rate stayed at 30 percent.

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10 Normal time to completion is the amount of time necessary for a student to complete all requirements for a degree or certificate according to the institution's catalog. This is typically 4 years for a bachelor's degree in a standard term-based institution; 2 years for an associate's degree in a standard term-based institution; and the various scheduled durations for certificate programs.

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