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Nearly 57 Percent of Fall 2011 Entering College Students Graduated by Spring 2017

by NSC Blog | Dec 14, 2017 | Research Reports, Research Services, Signature Reports |

“In the Coming Years, Demographic Changes Will Overtake Economic Shifts in Their Impact on College Completion Rates”

The overall national six-year completion rate for the Fall 2011 entering cohort was 56.9 percent, an increase of 2.1 percentage points from last year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s report, Completing College: A National View of Student Completion Rates – Fall 2011 Cohort. The 2011 cohort’s six-year completion rate surpasses the pre-recession high of 56.1 percent, reached by students who started college in 2007.

Unlike most federal and state numbers, this comprehensive completion rate includes all students: full-time and part-time, of all ages, at two-year, four-year, public and private institutions, and counts those who graduate after transferring.

“For the more than 2.27 million students who started college six years ago, the signs of post-recession recovery are clear: adult students shrank as a share of the cohort, four-year public and private nonprofit institutions increased their share of the cohort, and the total completion rate surpassed the pre-recession high,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the Research Center.

“In the coming years, demographic changes will overtake economic shifts in their impact on college completion rates, as the number of high school graduates declines and their diversity continues to increase,” Shapiro said. “For now, the trend represents a strong recovery in student success rates, across all of higher education, from the declines caused by the recession.”

Six-Year Outcomes for All Students, Students Who Started at Four-Year Institutions, and Students who Started at Two-Year Institutions (N=2,264,948)

Major findings:

  • The fall 2011 cohort completion rate represents about 48,000 more graduates earning a degree or certificate than the fall 2010 cohort, even with a slightly smaller cohort size;
  • 8 percent of students who started at a four-year institution completed a degree or certificate, compared to 37.7 percent for those who started at a two-year college;
  • 7 percent of traditional-age students completed a degree or certificate, nearly a two points increase from the previous year, as compared to 41.7 percent or a one point increase for adult learners;
  • 1 percent of students who enrolled full-time completed a degree, compared to 20.5 percent for part-time students and 39.5 percent for students who combined full-time and part-time study;
  • Asian and white students had much higher completion rates (68.9 percent and 66.1 percent, respectively) than Hispanic and black students (48.6 percent and 39.5 percent, respectively);
  • Black students represent the only group that was more likely to stop out or discontinue enrollment than to complete a credential within six years (total completion rate of 39.5 percent, compared to 42.8 percent no longer enrolled; another 17.7% were still making progress toward a degree);
  • The total completion rate for students who started at a four-year public institution increased from 62.4 to 64.7 percent, while the four-year private nonprofit rate grew from 73.9 to 76.0 percent, an increase of more than two percentage points from the 2010 cohort for both sectors; and
  • The eight-year completion rate for the fall 2009 entering cohort was nearly 59 percent–a six percentage point increase from the same cohort’s six-year completion rate reported previously. About one in six (16.1 percent) graduated after transferring to a different institution.

About the Completing College Signature Report

The cohort examined consists of first-time, degree-seeking students, of any age, who began their postsecondary studies in the fall of 2011. The data for this report were drawn from the National Student Clearinghouse, which tracks 97 percent of college enrollments nationwide across all postsecondary institutions, including all institution types: two-year and four-year institutions, public and private institutions, and nonprofit and for-profit institutions.

“The trend represents a strong recovery in student success rates, across all of higher education, from the declines caused by the recession.”

Doug Shapiro
Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

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