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NPSAS: Executive Summary Profile of Undergraduates in U.S. Postsecondary Education Institutions: 1999-2000
Who Were 1999-2000 Undergradautes?
Where Are Undergraduates Enrolled and What Do They Study?
Degree Program
Field of Study
Undergraduate Diversity and The Risk of Leaving Postsecondary Education?
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Undergraduate Diversity and The Risk of Leaving Postsecondary Education

The 1999–2000 undergraduates were examined with respect to seven risk factors previously found to be negatively associated with persistence and degree attainment (Horn and Premo 1995). The risk factors are characterized by enrollment patterns: delaying enrollment by a year or more, attending part time, being financially independent (for purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid), having children, being a single parent, working full time while enrolled, and being a high school dropout or a GED recipient. These risk factors involve enrollment patterns, family and financial status, and high school graduation status. From this perspective, the risk factors are highly related to characteristics of a diverse undergraduate population as described in this study, and some (such as parenthood) are one and the same.

In 1999–2000, three-quarters of all under-graduates reported at least one risk factor. Overall, the average number of risk factors reported by all undergraduates was 2.2. More risk factors were reported by Black students (2.7), American Indian/Alaska Native students (2.8), and Hispanic students (2.4). The same was found for students with disabilities, who averaged 2.6 risk factors.

Based on their risk profile, parents are at greater risk than other undergraduates (i.e., they are financially independent, have children, and may be single parents). Undergraduates with children or other dependents averaged 4.3 risk factors, and single parents averaged 4.7 risk factors.

Because female undergraduates were more likely than male undergraduates to be parents, they averaged more risk factors (2.3 versus 2.1). However, because men were more likely to work full time, no differences were detected between men and women in their overall likelihood of having at least one risk factor (75 percent).

According to a study of persistence in postsecondary education (Berkner, Cuccaro-Alamin, and McCormick 1996), 64 percent of beginning students with one risk factor persisted in their postsecondary program or completed a degree or vocational certificate within 5 years, compared with 43 percent of those with three or more risk factors. Thus, among 1999–2000 undergraduate students with three or more risk factors, at least half might be expected to leave postsecondary education without completing a degree or certificate.8

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