5.5 % Decrease in First-Time College Graduates Over Age 25 Offset by Increase in Younger Graduates
First-Time Graduates in the 25 and Over Age Group Has Declined by Nearly 122,000 since 2012-13
In the 2016-17 academic year, first-time graduates (associate and bachelor’s degrees combined) in the 25 and over age group dropped 5.5 percent compared to the previous year, according to the 2016-17 Undergraduate Degree Earners Report released today by National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. In addition, the number of first-time graduates in the 25 and over age group declined by nearly 122,000 since 2012-13.
The report differentiates between students earning their first postsecondary award and students earning additional undergraduate awards on top of those earned in prior years. Overall, the number of students earning their first undergraduate degree in 2016-17 (first-time graduates) was 2,232,069, a slight decline of 0.3 percent compared to 2015-2016.
The chart above shows counts of students earning undergraduate degrees (associate and bachelor’s combined) in each academic year, disaggregated by age group. The slight decline in 2016-17 first-time graduates was driven primarily by the 25 and over age group, while the number of graduates with prior awards has increased steadily over this timeframe.
In coming years, the number of high school graduates is projected to stagnate, presenting a challenge to efforts aimed at increasing the percentage of the adult population with a college credential. For such efforts, the findings of this report underscore the importance of increasing postsecondary attainment rates for adult learners.
Key findings include:
- First-time graduates under the age of 25 saw continued growth, with their numbers increasing 1.8 percent in 2016-17. The number of first-time graduates under the age of 25 increased by more than 116,000 since 2012-13.
- While the number of first-time graduates slightly declined, the number of students earning their second or third undergraduate credential (graduates with prior awards) grew by 3.4 percent to 666,885.
- As a share of all undergraduate degree earners, first-time graduates declined from 77.6 percent to 77.0 percent in 2016-17. This continues a recent trend, in which the share of first-time graduates has dropped over half a percentage point per year since 2012-13.
The five states with the largest 2016-17 increases in first-time graduates (compared to the previous year):
The five states with the largest 2016-17 declines in first-time graduates (compared to the previous year):
The National Student Clearinghouse collects graduation information from its participating institutions via two data reporting services, Enrollment Reporting and DegreeVerify. These reporting institutions account for 98 percent of the nation’s Title IV, degree-granting enrollments and college graduations.
The data are highly current, because institutions make several data submissions per term. In addition, because the Clearinghouse receives data at the student level, an unduplicated headcount is reported, avoiding double-counting of students enrolled in more than one institution.
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 http://nscresearchcenter.org.
The findings of this report underscore the importance of increasing postsecondary attainment rates for adult learners.