In the state supplement to our fourth Signature Report, a national study on college completion, we take a state-by-state look at the various pathways that students take to complete a college degree or certificate.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Nationally, 12 percent of students who started at four-year public institutions completed at an institution other than the starting institution. In 20 states, students who started at four-year public institutions had a higher completion rate at another institution with Minnesota having the highest rate at 27 percent.
  • 3.2 percent of all students who started at a four-year public institution received their first degree/certificate at a two-year institution. The rate was over 5 percent in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Conversely, 9.4 percent of all students who started at a two-year public institution received their first credential at a four-year institution. In seven states, more than 10 percent did so with the highest being 13.8 percent.
  • In eight states, more than one in six students who started at a two-year public institution completed at a four-year institution within six years with or without receiving a credential at a two-year institution (compared to 15 percent nationally). Virginia had the highest rate, with one in five students who started at a two-year public graduating from a four-year institution.
  • In nine states, more than 10 percent of students who started at a four-year public institution and received a degree ended up graduating in a different state (compared to 6 percent nationally). The rate was much higher in Alaska (28 percent) and North Dakota (20 percent).
  • In three states, more than 10 percent of students who started at a two-year public institution and later graduated did so in a different state (compared to 5.6 percent nationally).
  • In 14 states and in the District of Columbia, over 10 percent of the students who started at a four-year private nonprofit institution and received a credential did so in a different state (compared to 8.8 percent nationally).
  • In nearly every state, traditional-age students starting at four-year public institutions had higher six-year completion rates than adult learners. The smallest gap was in Arizona (1 percentage point) and the highest in Vermont (42 percentage points).
  • In 13 states, over 75 percent of the exclusively part-time students at four-year public institutions had not received a credential and were not enrolled at the end of six years (compared to 70 percent nationally).

The Signature Report State Supplement includes detailed tables, providing a state-by-state overview of college completion outcomes within the four-year public, two-year public, and four-year private nonprofit sectors.


Suggested Citation: Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Chen, J., Ziskin, M., Park, E., Torres, V., & Chiang, Y. (2013, February). Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Attainment Rates (Signature Report No. 4a). Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.