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PEDAR: Executive Summary Short-Term Enrollment in Postsecondary Education: Student Background and Institutional Differences in Reasons for Early Departure, 1996-98
What Proportion of Students Left College Without a Credential and Did Not Return in the First 3 Years?
What Factors Were Associated with Early Departure from Postsecondary Education by Institution Type?
Students' Educational Expectations
Other Characteristics
What Reasons Did These Short-Term Enrollees Give for Their Departure?
What Other Characteristics of Short-Term Enrollees Were Associated with Their Reasons for Departure?
Were Differences in Reasons for Departure by Institution Type Found After Controlling for Other Characteristics?
Other Results
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Students' Educational Expectations

Not all students plan to complete a degree when they enter college. Among all beginning postsecondary students in 1995-96, the expectations and objectives of students who began at public 2-year institutions differed from those of students who began at 4-year institutions. Even among students who began at public 2-year institutions, educational expectations were relatively high (i.e., higher than could be accomplished at a 2-year institution): 33 percent eventually expected to complete a bachelor's degree, and another 29 percent expected to complete an advanced degree, i.e., a degree beyond the bachelor's. But students who began at public 2-year institutions were less likely than students who began at 4-year institutions (59 percent at both public and private not-for-profit 4-year institutions) to expect to complete an advanced degree. They were also more likely to expect that their eventual educational attainment would be less than a bachelor's degree (16 percent versus 1-2 percent of those who began at 4-year institutions). Finally, students who began at community colleges expressed a range of reasons for enrolling at such an institution: 38 percent indicated that they chose that institution to prepare for transfer to a 4-year college or university; 22 percent chose the institution to gain job skills; and another 16 percent enrolled for personal enrichment.

Among students at all three types of institutions, both the eventual educational expectations of students and their initial degree objectives at the first institution attended were associated with departure from postsecondary education within 3 years. Among students who identified the level of education they ultimately expected to complete, those who identified higher expected levels of education were less likely than those who identified lower expected levels to leave college. In addition, those who did not know their expected eventual educational outcome were more likely than those who expected to complete advanced degrees to leave within 3 years.

Furthermore, initial degree objectives from the first institution at which the student enrolled were associated with departure from postsecondary education among students at all three types of institutions, with lower objectives generally associated with a higher rate of departure. For example, among students who began at public 4-year institutions, 40 percent of those whose degree objectives at their first institution did not include a bachelor's degree left postsecondary education within 3 years, compared with 16 percent of those who did plan to get a bachelor's degree there. This relationship was found even after taking into account many other factors associated with departure.

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