2. »
  3. Press Releases
  4. »
  5. Progress in National College Completion Rates Continue to Stall, with Declines at Four-Year...

Progress in National College Completion Rates Continue to Stall, with Declines at Four-Year Institutions

HERNDON, VA – (NOVEMBER 30, 2023) – Progress in the national college completion rate remains stalled, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest report. The six-year completion rate for the fall 2017 cohort was 62.2 percent, essentially unchanged since 2015.

The Completing College 2023 report found that six-year completion rates increased in over half of states, with nine states increasing 1 percentage point (pp) or more. This is up from the previous year where only five states had gains of at least 1 pp. Trends differed at the sector level, however, with improvements nationally in community college completion rates (+0.4 pp) building on their previous year’s growth, while all four-year sectors experienced completion rate declines.

“The rising risk of leaving college short of a diploma could be troubling news for students contemplating bachelor’s degree programs today,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Not only have fewer of the 2017 starters completed as of 2023, but the data also show fewer still enrolled, suggesting that this is more than just a matter of slower progress during the pandemic years.”

This is the twelfth report in the Completing College series. This report updates the six-year college completion rates nationally and by state, by tracking the enrollment and completion outcomes for the fall 2017 cohort of beginning college students through June 2023. The report also features national eight-year completion outcomes for fall 2015 through June 2023.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Completions rates stalled or declined across all ethnicities, with Native American (-2.0 pp) and Black students (-0.4 pp) posting the largest decreases.
  • The gender gap in completion rates continues to grow and is the widest seen since 2008 (7.2pp in favor of women).
  • Traditional-aged students entering college in fall 2017 saw declines in their overall six-year completion rate. Adult learners continue to make gains, but still lag behind traditional-aged students.
  • The national eight-year completion rate for the fall 2015 cohort declined 0.5pp from 2014. Only 2.4 percent of the cohort completed in the seventh and eighth years, the lowest rate in the past five cohorts.

For the comprehensive Completing College 2023 report, you can visit: https://nscresearchcenter.org/completing-college/

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more, visit nscresearchcenter.org.


Subscribe to get the latest news from the Clearinghouse