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Access, Persistence, and Attainment of a Degree
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Access, Persistence, and Attainment of a Degree

Reports are listed by publication release date, in descending order.


On Track to Complete? A Taxonomy of Beginning Community College Students and Their Outcomes 3 Years After Enrolling: 2003–04 through 2006

By Laura Horn

This study uses a classification scheme, the Community College Taxonomy (CCT), to analyze outcomes for beginning community college students according to how “directed” (strongly directed, moderately directed, or not directed) they are toward completing a program of study. Levels of direction are based on factors associated with student persistence and degree attainment. Outcomes examined include institutional retention, student persistence, 4-year transfer rates, enrollment continuity, and first-year attrition. The study is based on data from the 2004/06 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/06), a national sample of undergraduates who enrolled in postsecondary institutions for the first time between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2004; participants were interviewed in 2004 and 2006. This study includes only students who initially enrolled in a community college and were not enrolled concurrently in any other institution.

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The Path Through Graduate School: A Longitudinal Examination 10 Years After Bachelor’s Degree

By Stephanie Nevill and Xianglei Chen

The report uses longitudinal data from the 1992–93 Baccalaureate and Beyond Study (B&B:93/03) to examine the characteristics related to graduate degree enrollment, persistence, and completion among 1992–93 bachelor’s degree recipients. About 40 percent of 1992–93 bachelor’s degree recipients had enrolled in a graduate degree program by 2003. On average, most students waited between 2 and 3 years to enroll for the first time in a graduate degree program, and among those who enrolled between 1993 and 2003, some 62 percent had earned at least one graduate degree by 2003. Master’s degree students took an average of 3 years to complete their degree, first-professional students took about 4 years, and doctoral students took more than 5 years. After controlling for a wide range of relevant variables, several enrollment characteristics retained a significant relationship with graduate degree persistence and completion. Rates of persistence and completion were higher among students who entered graduate school immediately after earning a bachelor’s degree, who attended full time and enrolled continuously, and who enrolled in multiple graduate degree programs.

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First Generation Students in Postsecondary Education: A Look at their College Transcripts

By Xianglei Chen

This uses data from the Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) of the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) to examine the majors and coursetaking patterns of students who are the first members of their families to attend college (referred to as “first-generation students” in this report) and compare their postsecondary experiences and outcomes with those of students whose parents attended or completed college. The results indicate that first-generation students were at a disadvantage in terms of their access to, persistence through, and completion of postsecondary education. Once in college, their relative disadvantage continued with respect to coursetaking and academic performance. First-generation statuswas significantly and negatively associated with lower bachelor’s degree completion rates even after controlling for a wide range of interrelated factors, including students’ demographic backgrounds, academic preparation, enrollment characteristics, postsecondary coursetaking, and academic performance. This report also demonstrates that more credits and higher grades in the first year and fewer withdrawn or repeated courses were strongly related to the chances of students (regardless of generation status) persisting in postsecondary education and earning a bachelor’s degree.

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Gender Differences in Participation and Completion of Undergraduate Education and How They Have Changed Over Time

By Katharin Peter and Laura Horn

This report drew on several publications and postsecondary datasets to provide a detailed account of gender differences in undergraduate education. Specifically, the analysis examined gender differences in rates of participation and completion of undergraduate education, focusing on changes over time in college enrollment, associate’s and bachelor’s degree awards, and the demographic and enrollment characteristics of undergraduate men and women. The analysis also examined trends in high school academic preparation, postsecondary persistence and degree completion, and early labor market outcomes among bachelor’s degree recipients.

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College Persistence on the Rise? Changes in 5-Year Degree Completion and Postsecondary Persistence Rates Between 1994 and 2000

By Laura Horn and Rachel Berger

The study compares the degree completion and persistence rates between two cohorts—students who first enrolled in postsecondary education in academic year 1989–90 and their counterparts who first enrolled in 1995–96. The analysis focuses on the rates at which students in each cohort completed a degree within 5 years or were still enrolled at the end of 5 years. The study also examines changes in the students’ demographic profile and other population characteristics.

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Descriptive Summary of 1995-96 Beginning Postsecondary Students: Six Years Later

By Lutz Berkner, Shirley He, and Emily Forrest Cataldi

This report describes the enrollment, persistence, and degree attainment of students who began postsecondary education for the first time in the 1995–96 academic year. It covers the experiences of these first-time beginners over a period of six academic years, from 1995–96 to 2000–01, and provides information about the rates at which students completed degrees, transferred to other institutions, and left postsecondary education without attaining degrees. It provides direct comparisons of the institutional retention and completion rates of undergraduates at the first institution attended versus the persistence and attainment rates of the same group of students anywhere in postsecondary education after six years. Separate tables are presented for students who began at public 2-year, public 4-year, and private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, including information on persistence, transfers, stopouts, and degree attainment at the end of each of the six years. The report is based on the 1996/01 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:96/01), a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) survey that provides data describing a nationally representative sample of first-time students who entered postsecondary education during the 1995–96 academic year.

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Short-Term Enrollment in Postsecondary Education: Student Background and Institutional Differences in Reasons for Early Departure, 1996–98

By Ellen Bradburn

Using the 1996–98 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, this report describes short-term enrollment in postsecondary education: departure within three years of students’ first entry into postsecondary education without earning a credential and without returning. The analyses include exploration of factors associated with departure and the reasons students themselves gave for departure among students who began at public 4-year, private not-for-profit 4-year, and public 2-year institutions.

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High School Academic Curriculum and the Persistence Path Through College: Persistence and Transfer Behavior of Undergraduates 3 Years After Entering 4-Year Institutions

By Laura Horn and Lawrence Kojaku

This report examines the relationship between high school academic curricula and students’ persistence path through college, approximately 3 years after first enrolling. The data are drawn from the 1995–96 Beginning Postsecondary Students Survey, a longitudinal study of beginning postsecondary students who first enrolled in a 4-year college in 1995–96. Measures of high school academic preparation are based on academic courses taken in high school as reported by students on their college entrance exam applications.

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Bridging the Gap: Academic Preparation and Postsecondary Success of First-Generation Students

By Edward Warburton, Rosio Bugarin, and Anne-Marie Nunez

This report examines the high school preparation and postsecondary persistence of first-generation students—those students whose parents had no education beyond high school—and compares them with students whose parents went to college. The analyses address the following question: were first-generation students who were otherwise equally prepared academically comparable to students whose parents went to college in terms of their postsecondary enrollment and performance and rates of persistence and attainment? The data indicated that, while first-generation status is negatively associated with academic preparation in high school and success in postsecondary education, rigorous preparation in high school substantially narrows the gap in postsecondary outcomes between first-generation students and their peers whose parents graduated from college.

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Credits and Attainment: Returns to Postsecondary Education Ten Years After High School

By Brian Zucker and Royal Dawson

This report examines 16 student characteristics and their association with earnings 10 years after high school. After controlling for academic and labor force experience and background characteristics, a baccalaureate or associates degree contributed significantly to earnings while some college credits with no degree attainment did not. The findings further suggest that college curriculum and student academic performance as well as early labor force experience figure prominently in the earnings of young adults as well. While the findings reaffirm the importance of education as a vehicle of social mobility, the direct and indirect effects of family and demographic background still constitute dominant factors in the formation of an individual’s earning capacity.

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Projected Postsecondary Outcomes of 1992 High School Graduates

By Phillip Kaufman and Xianglei Chen

This working paper uses data combined from the third follow-up of the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88/94) and the Beginning postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:89/90) to project the postsecondary outcomes of the high school class of 1992. The focus of this working paper is the attainment and persistence rates for a cohort of high school graduates who had completed the necessary steps in high school to be prepared to enter a 4-year college or university.

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Students With Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: A Profile of Preparation, Participation, and Outcomes

By Laura Horn and Jennifer Berktold

This report describes and analyzes the experiences of students with disabilities enrolled in postsecondary education. There are four sections to the report: 1) a descriptive profile of undergraduates with disabilities who are enrolled in postsecondary education; 2) an analysis of who gains access to postsecondary education among high school students with disabilities; 3) a discussion of how well students with disabilities persist to degree attainment; and 4) a look at the early employment and graduate school enrollment of bachelor's degree recipients.

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Credit Production and Progress Toward the Bachelor's Degree: An Analysis of Postsecondary Transcripts for Beginning Students at 4-Year Institutions

By Alexander McCormick

This report uses postsecondary transcript data for members of the High School and Beyond (HS&B) Sophomore Cohort (who were high school sophomores when they were sampled in 1980). It examines progress toward the bachelor's degree among high school graduates who expected at least a bachelor's degree, first enrolled at a 4-year institution, and had completed at least 10 semester credits by September 1993. Questions addressed in this study include: 1) How many credits do bachelor's degree seekers earn in the 1st year of enrollment? 2) How long do students take to achieve selected threshold levels of credits? 3) How many credits do bachelor's degree attainers complete and how is the number of completed credits related to enrollment characteristics?

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Generational Status and Educational Outcomes Among Asian and Hispanic 1988 Eighth Graders

By Phillip Kaufman, Lisa Chavez, and Douglas Lauen

This report uses the transcript, second and third follow-up files of the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS:88) to examine the impact of generational status. The areas examined are educational achievement, high school graduation, aspirations for postsecondary education, and enrollment in postsecondary education among 1988 Asian and Hispanic eighth-graders as of 1994.

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Stopouts or Stayouts? Undergraduates Who Leave College in Their First Year

By Laura Horn

This report examines the educational experiences of students who leave college before the beginning of their second year. It tracks the path of those who return (stopouts) to determine where and when they reenrolled. The report also compares the background and school experiences of stopouts with those who do not return (stayouts).

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First-Generation Students: Undergraduates Whose Parents Never Enrolled in Postsecondary Education

By Anne-Marie Nunez and Stephanie Cuccaro-Alamin

This report examines the postsecondary experiences of first-generation college students and compares them with those of their counterparts whose parents had education beyond high school.

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Postsecondary Financing Strategies: How Undergraduates Combine Work, Borrowing, and Attendance

By Stephanie Cuccaro-Alamin and Susan Choy

This report examines the postsecondary financing strategies of undergraduates. Specifically, it describes how undergraduates combine work, borrowing, and attendance to support their postsecondary enrollment, and examines the relationship between various financing strategies and students' persistence in postsecondary education.

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Confronting the Odds: Students At Risk and the Pipeline to Higher Education

By Laura Horn

Building on previous research that identified 1988 eighth graders at risk of school failure, this report uses the NELS third follow-up (1994) to examine the high school and postsecondary enrollment experiences of these students. It focuses specifically on identifying factors that had a positive influence on students who were able to progress and finish high school and enter college, despite their disadvantaged position in the eighth grade.

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Access to Postsecondary Education for 1992 High School Graduates

By Lutz Berkner and Lisa Chavez

Using the second (1992) and the third (1994) follow-ups of the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88), this report examines access to postsecondary education by low-income and minority students. Students are characterized according to whether they are at least minimally qualified academically to attend a 4-year institution. The role of financial aid is examined both in relationship to preconceived attitudes towards college costs and the actual experience of enrolled students.

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Transfer Behavior Among Beginning Postsecondary Students: 1989-94

By Alexander McCormick

Using data from the BPS:90/94 survey, this report explores the extent to which postsecondary students transfer from one institution to another. The report focuses on transfer from 2-year to 4-year institutions but also examines horizontal and reverse transfers and the idea of "mobility" in general. The report presents persistence measures relative to transfer.

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Nontraditional Undergraduates: Trends in Enrollment from 1986 to 1992 and Persistence and Attainment Among 1989–90 Beginning Postsecondary Students

By Laura Horn

This report uses data from the three administrations of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study conducted in 1986–87, 1989–90, and 1992–93 (NPSAS:87, NPSAS:90, and NPSAS:93) to examine enrollment trends of nontraditional students. It then uses data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS:90/94) longitudinal survey to explore the persistence and attainment of nontraditional students who first began their postsecondary education in 1989–90.

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A Descriptive Summary of 1992-93 Bachelor's Degree Recipients 1 Year Later: With an Essay on Time to Degree

By Alexander McCormick and Laura Horn

This report provides a detailed profile of the population of 1992-93 bachelor's degree recipients, with particular attention to the amount of time taken to complete the degree, an issue of intense interest to students, parents, policy makers, and administrators.

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Profile of Part-Time Undergraduates in Postsecondary Education: 1989–90

By Alexander McCormick and Sonya Geis

This report describes part-time students enrolled in 1989–90, and examines their part-time enrollment relative to various student and institutional characteristics. These characteristics include grades earned, duration of part-time enrollment, and the receipt of financial aid.

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Profile of Older Undergraduates: 1989–90

By Susan Choy and Mark Premo

This report describes the participation of older undergraduates—that is, undergraduates 24 years and older—in postsecondary education. First, it profiles older students and compares them to younger students, describing their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics; their enrollment patterns; how they combine working and studying; and the types, sources, and amounts of financial aid they received. Next, it examines in detail certain subgroups of older students, including students who worked full time, enrolled full time, enrolled less than half time, received employer aid, enrolled without a high school diploma, and were single parents. Finally, the report examines persistence and attainment among older students who enrolled in postsecondary education for the first time in 1989–90.

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Minority Undergraduate Participation in Postsecondary Education

By Laura Horn

This report describes the educational experiences of undergraduate minority students for the academic year 1989–90 according to where they enrolled, reasons for institution choice, degree objectives, and educational objectives. It also examines the persistence of minority students who began in 1989-90 as of spring 1992 and older students who enrolled for the first time in 1989–90.

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