In 2013-14, the number of new college graduates in the U.S. — students earning their first postsecondary credential — fell for a second straight year, while the number of students receiving their second or third undergraduate credential continued a postrecession increase (Figure 1).
The number of new college graduates saw strong growth in the first two years covered by this report (increasing at annual rates of 4.9 percent in 2010-11 and 4.3 percent in 2011-12), followed by two years of declines (-2.1 percent in 2012-13 and -1.3 percent in 2013-14). In 2013-14, U.S. Title IV degree-granting institutions awarded 1,981,534 associate and bachelor’s degrees to students with no prior postsecondary award, only 0.7 percent more than they awarded in 2010-11 (1,968,334). Cumulatively, over eight million students received their first college degree (associate or bachelor’s) during this four-year period.
The trends varied by gender and age group (Tables 1-6). Over the four-year period, the count of new college graduates (associate and bachelor’s degrees combined) increased 2.2 percent for men, but decreased 0.4 percent for women. By age group, the count of new college graduates increased 4.4 percent for students under the age of 25, but decreased for all other age groups. Taken as a whole, new college graduates in the 25 and over categories dropped 6.6 percent since 2010-11.
As a percentage of all undergraduate degree recipients, new college graduates fell consistently each year, from 75 percent in 2010-11 to 71 percent in 2013-14. Put another way, the percentage of degree recipients who were stacking credentials, or earning additional undergraduate degrees on top of prior degrees or certificates, grew from 25 percent to 29 percent over this period (Figure 2).
Based on student-level enrollment and degree data from the National Student Clearinghouse, the New College Graduates Report differentiates between students earning their first postsecondary credential (referred to in this report as “new college graduates”) and students earning additional undergraduate credentials on top of ones earned in prior years. Each student is counted as a new college graduate only once, in the academic year of his or her first postsecondary credential. In Figures 1 and 2 only recipients of associate and bachelor’s degrees are counted as new college graduates. However, the counts include certificates as well as degrees among the prior awards that distinguish new college graduates from repeat graduates. More information on Clearinghouse degree coverage and definitions can be found in the notes section at the end of this report.