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REPORT: Signature Report 4

Signature Report 4Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates


In our fourth Signature Report, we examine the various pathways that students take to complete a college degree or certificate. Our report goes beyond traditional graduation rate calculations that focus on first-time full-time students who finish at their starting institution to provide the most comprehensive look at student outcomes on today’s campuses. We study completion rates separately for adult learners and traditional-age students and encompass postsecondary credentials of all levels and types at any institution in any state. Completion rates are also reported separately for exclusively full-time and exclusively part-time students as well as for students who changed their enrollment from full to part time or vice versa (aka mixed enrollment students).
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Suggested Citation: Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Chen, J., Ziskin, M., Park, E., Torres, V., & Chiang, Y. (2012, November). Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates (Signature Report No. 4). Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.


Table of Contents


About This Report


AUTHORS

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center
  • Doug Shapiro
  • Afet Dundar
Project on Academic Success, Indiana University
  • Jin Chen
  • Mary Ziskin
  • Eunkyoung Park
  • Vasti Torres
  • Yi-Chen Chiang

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Peter Ewell and Patrick Kelly, of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), who reviewed an earlier draft of the report in the context of their wealth of knowledge on postsecondary issues. Their comments and suggestions were immensely helpful to the development of this report. The authors also would like to thank Don Hossler, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, for his thoughtful comments and suggestions; Mahmoud Elkasabi, Ph.D. candidate in Survey Methodology at University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, for his assistance in designing the weighting strategy for this study; Diana Gillum, Vijaya Sampath, and Jason DeWitt from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, for their efforts to make the Clearinghouse data analysis-ready and sharing their deep knowledge of the data with the authors; and the members of the Project on Academic Success team, Desiree Zerquera, Tomika Ferguson, and Sarah Martin, for their efforts and thoughtful comments. Of course, any remaining errors or omissions are solely the responsibility of the authors.

SPONSOR

This report was supported by a grant from the Lumina Foundation. Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private foundation, is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college — especially 21st century students: low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Lumina’s goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change. For more information, log on to www.luminafoundation.org.


Executive Summary


College completion, earning a degree or certificate, is considered to be a key college success outcome, supported by every educational policymaker. Yet, institutions and policymakers in the U.S. know surprisingly little about the rates of completion for students who follow all but the most traditional of postsecondary pathways. This is because traditional graduation rate calculations are institution based and only count students who finish at the same institution where they started. Building on findings from previous reports in the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Signature Report series, this new report measures this key college success outcome − rates of first completion − encompassing postsecondary credentials of all levels and types at any institution in any state, whether it is the first, second, third, or more, attended.

Students in the U.S. pursuing a postsecondary education move along pathways that are increasingly complex. In its second Signature Report, Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions (Hossler et al., 2012), the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that one-third of first-time college students attended multiple institutions before earning a degree or certificate. Nontraditional students, like those who postpone college enrollment after high school, attend college part time, and/or have full-time jobs, have become the new majority among U.S. college students. This emphasizes the limitations of continuing to rely on traditional measures of student and institutional success that describe only first-time full-time students who never enroll at any institution other than their starting institution. Such measures fail to capture the full range of outcomes among today’s college students. They also fail to recognize institutional and policy efforts to support students pursuing diverse pathways.

This report draws on the Clearinghouse database’s near-census national coverage of enrollments and awarded degrees to explore the six-year outcomes of a cohort of first-time-in-college degree-seeking students who started in fall 2006 (N=1,878,484). It enhances the traditional graduation rate by reporting in four key ways:

  1. Student completion anywhere, beyond institutional boundaries, across state lines, and over time;
  2. Persistence anywhere, not just at the starting institution, for those who have not yet completed but are still pursuing a degree;
  3. College outcomes broken out by student age at first entry and enrollment intensity, thus addressing questions about the role of students’ varied postsecondary pathways in progress toward national completion goals;
  4. Enrollment intensity based on the enrollment status in  all terms of enrollment, and not just the first term.

Specifically, this report examines:

  • Six-year college outcomes, including the first instance of degree or certificate completion (first completion), persistence, and stop-out. Outcomes are broken out by students’ age at first entry, students’ enrollment intensity, enrollment intensity within each age group, and type of starting institution;
  • Six-year college outcomes for students who started at four-year public institutions, at two-year public institutions, at four-year private nonprofit institutions, and at four-year private for-profit institutions; and
  • Patterns of completion across state lines, broken out by students’ enrollment intensity, students’ age at first entry, and enrollment intensity within each age group.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS

The findings presented in this report show that within six years, 12.1 percent of first-time-in-college degree-seeking students who enrolled in fall 2006 completed a degree or certificate at an institution other than their starting institution, raising the overall completion rate from 42.0 percent to 54.1 percent. Mixed enrollment students completed at an institution other than their starting institution at a higher rate (14.6 percent) than exclusively full-time (10.6 percent) and exclusively part-time (3.1 percent) students (Figure S1).

For students who started at four-year public institutions, 60.5 percent completed within six years, including 12.0 percent who completed at an institution different from their starting institution. Among all students who started at a two-year public institution, 36.3 percent received a degree or certificate within six years, with 12.4 percent completing at a different institution. Students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions showed a 62.5 percent rate of first completion within six years, with 12.9 percent completing at a different institution. Students who started at four-year private for-profit institutions showed lower completion rates at an institution other than the starting one (37.8 percent at the starting institution and 4.9 percent at a different institution).

COMPREHENSIVE COMPLETION RATES BEYOND THOSE AT THE STARTING INSTITUTION

Overall, more than one in five students who completed a degree (22.4 percent) did so not at their starting institution, but somewhere else. That figure is closer to one in four (23.6 percent) for traditional-age students (Figure S2) and more than one in three (34.1 percent) for students who started at two-year public institutions.

Counting students who graduated elsewhere than at their starting institution increased the completion rate across the board for every institution type and student subgroup we studied. The increases ranged from 4 percentage points for two-year private for-profit institutions to 13 percentage points for four-year private nonprofit institutions. In addition, completion rates for mixed enrollment students, those who attended both full time and part time during the six years (2006-12), increased by about 15 percentage points, followed by an 11-percentage-point increase for exclusively full-time students and a 3-percentage-point increase for exclusively part-time students.

COMPLETION RATES FOR ADULT LEARNERS

Gains in completion rates from graduations elsewhere were greater for students who started college at age 24 or younger than they were for students who started when they were over age 24 (13 percentage points and 6 percentage points, respectively). It should be noted that while adding completions beyond the starting institution increased the completion rate for students over age 24 (n=327,487), a large gap remained between the completion rates of younger and older students, with the latter group having a much lower overall six-year completion rate (56.8 percent vs. 42.1 percent, respectively). Furthermore, by the end of the study period, 44.4 percent of the older students were not enrolled anywhere (i.e., had stopped out of college), compared to 26.4 percent of the younger students.

Disaggregating data by age and enrollment intensity demonstrated that students over age 24 who enrolled exclusively part time had a higher completion rate than traditional-age part-timers did. Thus, the overall completion rates of the older students were largely driven by the completions of the exclusively full-time students among them.

Compared to those of traditional-age students, the completion rates of adult learners varied greatly depending on the type of institution that they attended. At four-year private nonprofit institutions, the completion rate for older students was 22 percentage points lower than it was for traditional-age students; at four-year public institutions, that gap was 18.5 percentage points. Notably, however, at two-year public institutions, the completion rates were similar for these two groups: 35.7 percent for older students and 36.4 percent for younger students. At four-year private for-profit institutions, the completion rate of older students was actually higher − by 8.9 percentage points. Institutions in each of these sectors may need to adjust their strategies for supporting student success among adult learners to address the particular patterns and gaps emerging among their students.

DEFINING ENROLLMENT INTENSITY

Mixed Enrollment Students

In this study, we defined enrollment intensity as the students’ enrollment status in all terms of enrollment. We categorized as mixed enrollment students those who changed their enrollment from full time to part time, or vice versa, from term to term. These students comprised more than half of the study’s cohort (51.3 percent). Results showed that two-thirds of the mixed enrollment students started out as full-time students and, thus, would have been classified as full-time students in many graduation studies that define a student’s enrollment intensity based on the student’s first term alone. In addition, our analysis showed that 14.6 percent of mixed enrollment students completed at an institution other than the starting institution, a higher percentage than shown among exclusively full-time and part-time students. In traditional graduation metrics that focus on starting institutions, these students would be counted as nonpersisters. It is important that researchers and policymakers understand the extent to which current conventions for categorizing enrollment patterns distort both part-time and full-time results in measures where enrollment intensity is based on first-term status alone.

Exclusively Part-Time Students

Considering the outcomes of mixed enrollment students separately also leads to a better understanding of the outcomes of exclusively part-time students (7.2 percent of the study’s cohort). The low completion rate for part-time students can be better understood by recognizing that, typically, exclusively part-time enrollment does not allow enough time to complete a four-year degree in six years. However, one would have expected a large share of these students to be still enrolled at the end of the study period, and this was not the case. Specifically, 59 percent of part-time students at four-year private nonprofit institutions and 70 percent at four-year public and two-year public institutions had either dropped out or stopped out, showing no enrollments in the final year of the study. Additional insights come from disaggregating exclusively part-time students into older and traditional-age students. The category of exclusively part-time enrollees is the only one in which older students have a higher completion rate than traditional-age students, which suggests that enrolling exclusively part-time is associated with completion risks for traditional-age students. Institutional policymakers who understand how their students measure against these trends will be better equipped to implement changes that could lead to higher completion rates and more successful students.

FOUR-YEAR COMPLETIONS FOR FIRST-TIME STUDENTS WHO STARTED AT TWO-YEAR PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS

Overall, 15 percent of two-year starters completed a degree at a four-year institution by the end of the study period. Nearly two-thirds of these students (63 percent, or 9 percent of the full cohort that started at two-year institutions) did so without first obtaining a two-year degree. In other words, these students transferred and graduated from a four-year institution without receiving any credential from their starting (or from any other) two-year institution. Traditional graduation rate measures that focus only on completions at the starting institution do not account for this type of outcome. Consequently, community colleges often do not receive credit for the two-thirds of their students who go on to complete a four-year degree.

OUT-OF-STATE COMPLETIONS

Out of the full starting cohort, 3.5 percent received a degree in a state different from the one where they started within the six years. Thus, out-of-state completions represent about 6.5 percent of all completions, and more than a quarter (28.7 percent) of all students who completed a degree somewhere other than their starting institution. The completion outcomes for these students are typically out of the range for both institution-based graduation rate measures and state longitudinal databases that track students among different institutions, but only within a single state.

By exploring college attainment outcomes in detail with regard to students’ starting institutions, institutions where first completions occurred, and by student age and enrollment intensity, this study’s findings provide an alternative and more comprehensive view of student progress and success in U.S. postsecondary education. The study also sheds light on the college outcomes of students who are often overlooked by research and excluded from relevant policy discussions: older students and students who do not enroll continuously at a full-time status. Taken together, these findings have the potential to contribute to ongoing discussions about national education goals and institutional accountability. More specifically, the findings suggest that emerging policy initiatives should look to more nuanced and targeted measures of student success and that institutions should provide student support tailored to the differing needs of students along their various postsecondary pathways − pathways that include intermittent part-time enrollment, enrollment in multiple institutions, enrollment as a returning adult learner, and longer time to degree.


Introduction


THE COLLEGE COMPLETION AGENDA

It is widely acknowledged that a highly-educated workforce is essential for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy (Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance [ACSFA], 2012; Lee, Edwards, Menson & Rawls, 2011; White House Office of the Press Secretary, 2009). Despite the fact that the U.S. has one of the world’s highest rates of higher education participation (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2012), other nations have outperformed the U.S. higher education system in degree completion (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008). In the U.S., while 34 percent of adults age18 to 24 attended colleges or universities in 2007, only 18 postsecondary credentials were awarded per 100 college enrollees, placing the U.S.15th among OECD countries in that latter measure (National Center, 2008, p. 6). Furthermore, large disparities remain in America between ethnic groups and across states in educational attainment (Lee, et al., 2011; National Center, 2008).

Emphasizing the link between college attainment figures and economic competitiveness, therefore, education policymakers across the nation are focusing higher education policy on fulfilling the college completion agenda and related educational attainment goals. President Obama’s first budget proposal included a five-year, $2.5 billion Access and Completion Incentive Fund to support state efforts to help low-income students complete their college education (Office of Management and Budget, n.d.). Citing growing concerns regarding the U.S. position in the global economy in his 2009 address to Congress, President Obama established a new goal: “by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” Also, in March 2011, the U.S. Department of Education released the College Completion Tool Kit, outlining seven low-cost strategies based on promising state and local practices for governors to consider. The recommended strategies included developing an action plan, embracing performance-based funding, aligning high school standards with college entrance and placement standards, making it easier for students to transfer, using data to drive decision making, accelerating learning and reducing costs, and targeting adult students. The Department of Education viewed these strategies not as the considerations requiring major financial investments but rather as calling for “new ways of doing business and leadership that inspires new levels of collaboration among various stakeholders” (2011a, p. 4.). In addition to funding various grant programs to promote student learning outcomes and college completion, the Department of Education has also set up state targets for increasing the number and percentage of college graduates.

Further reflecting the growing concern that the U.S.’s declining economic competitiveness is related to inadequate levels of educational attainment in the nation’s workforce, a wide range of organizations across the U.S. in the past few years have launched initiatives in support of the “college completion agenda.” The broad goal of these diverse initiatives is the same: to significantly increase the number of adults in the U.S. with a postsecondary credential. The College Board, for example, seeks to increase the prevalence of college-educated adults from the current level of 39 percent to 55 percent by 2025 (Lee, et al., 2011), while the postsecondary success goal of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2009) is to help the nation double the number of low-income students by age 26, and Lumina Foundation’s (2011) Goal 2025 aims to “increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials from the longstanding rate of 39 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025″ (2009, p. 1). While foundations using various strategies in pursuit of a common goal, these initiatives all focus generally on a shared set of approaches (Russell, 2011): raising awareness of the issues among education stakeholders and mobilizing public support; aligning public policy with the college completion agenda; improving institutional outcomes through programmatic activity and a culture of student success; improving higher education productivity; refining the measures of completion; analyzing current policies and practices and identifying those that are most effective; and enhancing support for attainment among underrepresented students, especially those from low-income and minority groups. The ambitious and well-publicized efforts of major foundations, particularly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education, have helped generate wide interest in the college completion agenda among many other foundations and organizations nationwide. An unusually large number of organizations have responded to the call to increase college completions by launching a wide array of initiatives that focus on improving completion outcomes, particularly among low-income and underrepresented students.

The current college completion agenda calls for major improvement in completion outcomes in an ambitious timeline. This agenda can succeed only with comprehensive and timely measures of student outcomes to inform all stakeholders about the progress made and to identify areas for further improvement.

EXISTING REPORTS ON COMPLETION

Along with these initiatives, studies and policy discussions have emerged as well, centering on (1) the progress of the completion agenda, (2) the appropriateness of current completion and related measures, (3) alternative ways of assessing student success, and (4) actions needed at institution, state, and federal levels to improve the performance of both institutions and students. These studies and discussions differ widely in focus and scope. For example, to support President Obama’s college completion agenda, the U.S. Department of Education recently released an action plan that considers revising IPEDS survey procedures to include counts of students who transfer, enroll part time, and enter an institution as non-first-time students (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). The Southern Regional Education Board has established action plans and made recommendations for improving college completion for their member states (e.g., Collins, 2010; Spence, Blanco & Root, 2010).

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) issued a report (Radford, Berkner, Wheeless, & Shepherd, 2010) on six-year persistence and attainment using data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09), a nationally representative sample of first-time students who started postsecondary education in 2003-04. The NCES report distinguishes students’ persistence and attainment anywhere within the higher education system from students’ retention and completion only at their first institution. The former, broader measure — student persistence — recognizes the complex pathways students may take during the six-year period to obtain their postsecondary education. The College Board’s 2011 progress report on the college completion agenda (Lee et al., 2011) serves as a first annual measure of the current state of affairs in the U.S. based on the 10 recommendations for achieving the nation’s completion goals offered in 2008 by the Commission on Access, Admissions, and Success in Higher Education. While comprehensive and broadly applicable, this progress report depends on customary, established measures (e.g., first-to-second year retention, first-time full-time cohort graduation rates, and degree awards) used by long-standing data sources, such as IPEDS. Consequently, the report has limitations in describing recent shifting of emergent enrollment trends and behaviors, for which alternative measures may be more useful.

Adding to the recent activity to assemble a national view of college completion, a number of reports have also appeared in recent years that focus on specific institutional sectors. The American Association of Community Colleges, for example, released two policy briefs focusing on trends in educational attainment for community college students (Mullin, 2011) and challenges faced by community colleges (Mullin, 2010), drawing on evidence synthesized primarily from existing literature. Likewise, the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) conducted a study on college completion at four-year institutions (DeAngelo, Franke, Hurtado, Pryor & Tran, 2011), defining completion as graduation at the institution of origin (i.e., the institution where the CIRP Freshman Survey was administered).

While these examples illustrate considerable discussion and activity related to the college completion agenda in research and policy reports, more research is needed using new measures and data sources that encompass the true range of college-going behaviors. This means longitudinal tracking using student-level data. Empirical studies that use conventional measures of student success, such as completion rates at institutions of origin, only are substantially limited in their ability to capture student outcomes and fail to recognize institutional efforts to encourage enrollment mobility (particularly at community colleges) that help students realize their individual educational goals. Except for a few national studies (e.g., Radford et al., 2010), most studies focus on a single institution or a region using institutional or state-level student unit record data and, therefore, fail to account for increasingly common enrollment behaviors such as: multi-institution enrollment, cross-state transfer, and transfer between institutional sectors (Bach et al., 2000; Hillman, Lum, & Hossler, 2008).

The complexity of the postsecondary pathways of today’s students makes serious engagement with college completion difficult when using traditional inquiry approaches. Increasingly, for example, students attend multiple institutions before obtaining a postsecondary credential (Adelman, 2006; Bach et al., 2000; Dougherty & Kienzl, 2006; Doyle, 2009; Eagan & Jaeger, 2009; Goldrick-Rab & Pfeffer, 2009; McCormick, 2003; McCormick & Carroll, 1997; Peter & Cataldi, 2005). As reported in previous National Student Clearinghouse Signature Reports, one-third of all first-time-in-college students transferred to a different institution at least once within a five-year study period, one-quarter of all transfers did so more than once, and over one-quarter of all transfers crossed a state line in the process (Hossler, et al., 2012a, 2012b). Clearinghouse data have the potential to document complex patterns of student mobility, including reverse transfer and swirling before degree completion (Adelman, 1999, 2006; Hossler, et al, 2012a, 2012b; McCormick, 2003; McCormick & Carroll, 1997).

In addition to the dynamic pathways students take while working toward their educational goals, students who enroll in college full time immediately after high school no longer represent the majority among postsecondary college students (Choy, 2002; Horn & Carroll, 1997; Reeves, Miller, & Rouse, 2011). Rather, many students delay college enrollment, enroll in college part time, and/or have a full-time job while enrolled. To balance the responsibilities of family, work, and school, these students often take educational routes that require a longer time to a postsecondary credential, such as enrolling part time, attending institutions with shorter terms, and stopping out occasionally. For these students, conventional measures of success, such as graduation rates for institution-based, first-time full-time degree-seeking cohorts, are insufficient for recognizing the distinctive pathways these students take, or for understanding the particular risks and supports that shape their academic careers (ACSFA, 2012; Committee on Measures of Student Success, 2011; Moore & Shulock, 2009; University Professional and Continuing Education Association Center for Research and Consulting & InsideTrack, 2012; U.S. Department of Education, 2011b). Moreover, institutional accountability and student success measures that are based on conventional completion rates disadvantage institutions that enroll large numbers of students who follow the above-mentioned nontraditional pathways. Consequently, a key aspect of recent research on college completion focuses on the development and adoption of new and more appropriate measures.

TOWARD NEW COMPLETION REPORTING

The Committee on Measures of Student Success recently prepared an advisory report for the U.S. Secretary of Education, that includes strategies to help two-year institutions calculate and report completion and graduation rates using current metrics, suggestions on expanding the measures to incorporate graduation rates for part-time student cohorts and to recognize different transfer and persistence patterns, and recommendations for initiating new measures on student learning and employment outcomes (U.S. Department of Education, 2011b). Further, the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA) initialized two panel discussions on key issues faced by policymakers and institutional practitioners with regard to serving nontraditional students and promoting their college completion (ACSFA, 2012). The results of these discussions emphasized academic barriers to the access and persistence of these underserved students, best practices at the state and institution levels, and the federal government’s role in implementing these best practices.

In sum, national higher education policy discussions, more and more, are reflecting the new shifting and emerging patterns in postsecondary enrollment (e.g., ACSFA, 2012; U.S. Department of Education, 2012), yet existing data collection and reporting systems as well as many widely-cited empirical studies provide only a partial and fragmentary national picture of college completion.

For these reasons, therefore, it is important to refine our methods to examine national completion rates. To understand how students and institutions are performing as well as to track our national progress, we need measures that are accurate and that fit current reality. In addition, as we refine our definitions of postsecondary student success, we need new information that can guide the decisions of policymakers and institutions. As this report illustrates, Clearinghouse data serve these goals in the immediate term. These data provide a longitudinal view of expanded student cohorts (e.g., traditional-age vs. adult students; full-time vs. part-time cohorts) at the center of changes emerging from the debate on measuring college completion in the U.S. They also provide measures of more complete outcomes, including transfer patterns, persistence, and certificate or degree completion regardless of level, and at any institution, not just the institution of first enrollment.

To reach a more comprehensive understanding of current progress toward the national completion goals, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, in partnership with the Project on Academic Success, has launched efforts to report on more broadly defined student outcomes. Building on findings from previous reports in the Signature Report series, this new report zeroes in on a key student success outcome aligned with national college attainment goals: first college completion rates, encompassing postsecondary credentials of all levels and types. Specifically, this report focuses on the six-year completion outcomes of a cohort of first-time-in-college students who started postsecondary education at U.S. colleges and universities in fall 2006. First completion, the primary focus of this report, is investigated in detail with regard to institutions of origin and destination as well as by student age at first entry and enrollment intensity. Building on the comprehensiveness and the timeliness of Clearinghouse enrollment and completion data, this report aims to contribute to research and policy discussions about college completion by providing an alternative more detailed view of student progress and success in U.S. postsecondary education.

WHAT TO FIND IN THIS REPORT

This report focuses on student completion of postsecondary certificates and degrees among first-time-in-college degree-seeking students who initially enrolled in public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit two-year and four-year colleges and universities nationwide in fall 2006. The study followed the fall 2006 cohort’s college enrollment behaviors for six years, through the spring of 2012.

Six-year outcomes provided in this report include completions at students’ starting institution, completions at an institution other than the starting institution, and continued enrollment of noncompleters through the end of the study period. The report emphasizes students’ first completions throughout. For students whose first credential was awarded by a two-year institution, however, subsequent completions at four-year institutions are also explored.

Results are considered by student age at first entry into college, by enrollment intensity, and by the type of institution where students first enrolled. Two age groups are defined: students who were 24 years old or younger at first entry, and those who were over age 24 at first entry. The report further presents results for students in three categories of enrollment intensity: those enrolled exclusively full time throughout the study period, those enrolled exclusively part time, and those whose enrollments showed both full-time and part-time terms within the six years examined (mixed enrollment students).

The tables and figures presented in this report explore the following:

  • Six-year outcomes for the fall 2006 cohort overall and broken out by enrollment intensity;
  • Six-year outcomes by student age at first entry overall and further broken out by enrollment intensity;
  • Six-year outcomes by type of starting institution overall;
  • Six-year outcomes by type of starting institution further broken out by age at first entry and enrollment intensity, focusing on the students who started at four types of institutions specifically:
    • Four-year public institutions,
    • Two-year public colleges,
    • Four-year private nonprofit institutions, and
    • Four-year private for-profit institutions; and also
  • Certificate and degree completions that occurred at institutions other than students’ starting institution, broken out by location within the same state as the starting institution, outside the state, or at a multistate institution.
Coming Up in the Next Signature Report

The Clearinghouse’s fifth Signature Report will focus on four-year degree completions of students who transferred from two-year to four-year institutions, including those who transferred with or without first receiving a credential from a two-year institution. Results will be disaggregated by such student characteristics as age and gender and the institutional characteristics of the destination institutions (e.g., Carnegie classification).

A NOTE ON THE DATA

Data Source

The data for this report were drawn from the StudentTrackerSM and DegreeVerifySM services, administered by the National Student Clearinghouse® (The Clearinghouse), which tracks 94 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. In order to ensure the most accurate possible representation of student outcomes for the study cohort, the results reported here are weighted according to the formula described in Appendix A using the state-by-state coverage rate for each institution type (sector and control). A complete explanation of national coverage rates and the weights used to ensure that results reflect enrollment and completion by sector and control can be found in Appendices A and B.

The student outcomes captured in this report are based on student-level data representing an unduplicated headcount of students across all institutions, a feature of the Clearinghouse data sets that distinguishes them from many other data sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), that may not accurately capture the complexity of postsecondary pathways because they are not structured to identify multiple enrollments by individual students. The capability of StudentTracker to link enrollment records across institutions nationally allows researchers to follow students longitudinally as they move from institution to institution, producing a fuller picture of college persistence and completion. Although Clearinghouse data contain some demographic information on students, historical coverage rates for the demographic data elements is uneven. Therefore, the results summarized in this report give a national overview of college completion by age at first entry and by enrollment intensity, showing the percentage of students who enrolled or completed at various types of institutions, but they do not examine completion by race, ethnicity, or gender, for example.

Cohort Definition

The cohort examined in this study is made up of first-time degree-seeking students, of any age, who began their postsecondary studies in the fall of 20061. Showing intent to seek a degree or certificate for students who started at two-year institutions was defined as, either:

  1. Enrolled full time for at least one term before August 15, 2007, or
  2. Enrolled at least half time for any two terms before December 31, 2007.

First-time status was established by confirming that a student (1) did not show any postsecondary enrollment record in the four years prior to the student’s fall 2006 enrollment, and (2) did not receive a degree or certificate from any postsecondary institution prior to fall 2006, according to Clearinghouse data.

Depending on the strengths and limitations of the data sets they use in their analysis, researchers face considerable complexity in operationalizing the category “first-time student.” For this report, the Clearinghouse and the Project on Academic Success (PAS) balanced competing priorities in selecting a method for identifying the study cohort. On the one hand, Clearinghouse data allowed the researchers to capture a unique headcount of students nationally and, therefore, to follow individual students while also accounting for concurrent enrollments. In addition, Clearinghouse data allowed the researchers to establish first-time enrollment status empirically, i.e., by searching for prior enrollments rather than relying on institutions’ reports, which may include idiosyncratic definitions as well as errors in transactional records. On the other hand, some limitations do arise with the method for identifying the study cohort in this report. Because Clearinghouse data on designations for class year are incomplete, for example, the researchers were not able to use them for this report. Consequently, this study’s sample may include students who have more than 30 Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or dual enrollment credits and, despite having first-time-in-college status, may not be considered freshmen by their institutions. Moreover, because of inconsistencies in the historical depth of DegreeVerify database records, it is possible that a small number of graduate students are also included in the study cohort. (For a full discussion of data, definitions, and limitations, please see Appendix A.)

Throughout this report, we examine college completion rates for the fall 2006 cohort. The study followed the cohort through May 31, 2012 and highlights six-year student outcomes including degree and certificate completion, and continuing enrollment (persistence). Completions were identified using a combination of degree/certificate award records submitted by institutions as part of their participation in DegreeVerify and StudentTracker enrollment records indicating completions of a certificate or degree.

1 For comparison purposes, the results for non-degree seeking students who started at two-year public institutions are presented in Appendix C.

 

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 1.

Figure A shows the fall 2006 cohort (n=1,878,484) broken out by type of starting institution. Four-year public institutions enrolled the largest percentage of the cohort (44.2 percent, n=830,056), followed by two-year public institutions, with 33.6 percent (n=631,524), and four-year private nonprofit institutions, enrolling 19.1 percent (n=359,145) of the cohort. Four-year private for-profit institutions enrolled a small percentage comparatively, 2.8 percent (n=52,621), while two-year private nonprofit institutions and two-year private for-profit institutions both enrolled less than 1 percent of the cohort.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 2.

Figure B shows that at first entry, 17.4 percent of the study cohort were over age 24 at first entry, while 81.7 percent were age 24 or younger. The birth date was missing for slightly less than 1 percent of the cohort.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 3.

Figure C focuses on students’ enrollment intensity and shows that 41.5 percent of the study cohort enrolled exclusively full time throughout the study period while 7.2 percent enrolled exclusively part time. A key point to note here is that over half of the cohort (51.3 percent) had mixed enrollment; that is, they enrolled full time for some terms and part time for other terms during the study period (see Appendix A for further detail).

It is important to note that this is a significantly different definition of enrollment status than the one commonly used in graduation rate studies based on IPEDS data. IPEDS cohorts are determined by student enrollment status in the first fall term only. By contrast, this report considers student enrollment status over time and across institutions, allowing for a more nuanced classification. For example, roughly two-thirds of the mixed enrollment group consists of students who began at full-time status but later enrolled part time. These students would have been classified as full time in studies that only considered the first enrollment term.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 4, and excluded a small number of students (less than 1 percent of the cohort) whose birth date was missing.

Finally, Figure D shows the distribution of the study cohort by age at first entry and enrollment intensity. For both age groups, students with mixed enrollment intensity represented the largest proportions. Among students who were 24 or younger at first entry, 52.1 percent had mixed enrollment, followed by students who enrolled exclusively full time (44.7 percent). Students with exclusively part-time status represented only 3.2 percent of the younger group. Among students who were over age 24 at first entry, a similarly large percentage (47.8 percent) showed mixed enrollment. However, the students who were over age 24 at first entry fell into the remaining two enrollment intensity groups in nearly equal proportions. In contrast to the younger group, fully one-quarter of students who were over age 24 at first entry enrolled exclusively part time throughout the study period, while only a slightly larger proportion (27.1 percent) enrolled exclusively full time.


Results


OVERALL SIX-YEAR OUTCOMES

The results presented in this report focus on six-year outcomes of degree-seeking students who entered postsecondary education for the first time in fall 2006. The report places particular emphasis on each student’s first instance of completion. The near-census student enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse enable researchers to track student postsecondary pathways across institutions, sectors, and state lines. Within this context, using Clearinghouse data, we present a national picture of college completion, and further explore college outcomes for students of different age groups and enrollment intensity.


Six-year Outcomes by Enrollment Intensity

The national goal for increasing college completion (i.e., 55 percent of the adult U.S. population holding an associate’s degree or higher by the year 2025) includes students from both four-year and two-year institutions. The presentation of the study’s results, therefore, begins by describing the patterns in the six-year outcomes for the entire study cohort, without consideration of institution type.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 5a.

Figure 1 shows six-year student outcomes including degree or certificate completion, continuing enrollment during the last year of the study period, and stop-out. Results are shown for the full cohort and are broken out by enrollment intensity, showing outcomes for students who were enrolled exclusively full time, exclusively part time, and with mixed enrollment (i.e., both part time and full time during the study period). Overall, 42 percent of the cohort completed at their starting institution and an additional 12.1 percent completed at a different institution, for a combined completion rate of 54.1 percent nationally. The percentage of students who had completed or were still enrolled at the end of the study period exceeded 70 percent.

The data used in this report enable researchers to follow students as they move across institutions, thus a fuller picture of college completion emerges here than is possible to assemble from institution-level data or statewide data sets. Furthermore, the results shown here extend on the view offered by other data sets by including outcomes for students who consistently or intermittently enrolled part time.

Results broken out by the three enrollment intensity categories (exclusively full time, exclusively part time, or mixed enrollment) show marked differences behind the overall rates. Exclusively full-time students (a group that comprised 41.5 percent of the cohort) showed a total completion rate of 76.2 percent, including 10.6 percent who completed at institutions other than their starting institution. An additional 3.7 percent of the exclusively full-time students were still enrolled at the end of the study period, leaving only 20 percent of this group no longer enrolled for at least a year before the end of the study period.

Not surprisingly, given the longer time to degree required when attending college part time, the small minority who enrolled exclusively part time (7.2 percent of the full study cohort) showed much lower rates of completion within six years. It is clear that six years is not an adequate time frame for capturing completions of students who enroll exclusively part time throughout their studies, particularly those seeking four-year degrees, and the results from this study reflect that fact. Among part-time students, only 17.5 percent completed degrees or certificates at their starting institution, while an additional 3.1 percent completed at a different institution. About one in nine (11.4 percent) were still enrolled at the end of the study period, with 68 percent not enrolled anywhere in the last year of the study period. It is important to note the need to continue to follow these students over longer periods in order to obtain definitive degree outcomes. This need is underscored not just by the 11.4 percent who were still enrolled at the end of six years, but also by the 68 percent characterized as “stopped-out” (those who show no enrollment for the last 12 months of the study period). These students may enroll again, and possibly complete a degree, at some time after the close of study period.

Differences between the part-time and full-time enrollment groups are accentuated by the separate consideration in this study of the mixed enrollment group, a group that comprised more than half of the study cohort (51.3 percent). Many studies and data sources categorize this group of students as full-time or part-time enrollees based only on their enrollment intensity in their first term. Using that method, 67.3 percent of this study’s mixed enrollment group would have been classified as full time. In other words, among this study’s mixed enrollment students, twice as many started full time and later enrolled part time as followed the reverse pattern. However, because this group comprised a large portion of the study sample and showed six-year outcomes patterns distinctly different from those of the other groups in the study, researchers and policymakers should note the extent to which the mixed enrollment group would skew both the part-time and full-time results had these students been characterized on the basis of their first-term enrollments alone.

Among students with mixed enrollment, the total completion rate was 40.9 percent, with 26.3 percent completing at their starting institution and 14.6 percent completing at a different institution. Another key finding is that the highest proportion of students still enrolled without completing a degree or a certificate by the end of the study period appeared among mixed enrollment students. More than one quarter of this group (26.8 percent) were still enrolled at the end of the study period, leaving the percentage of stop-outs at 32.4 percent.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 5b.

Figure 2 shows the proportions of completions that were earned at a different institution from where the students first enrolled, for each enrollment intensity group. Overall, more than one-fifth, 22.4 percent of all students with at least one completion record, earned their first credential somewhere else from their starting institutions. It is important to note that these percentages are measuring only the first degrees earned and does not include the cases when students may have completed an associate’s degree at their starting institution, for example, and then also a bachelor’s degree elsewhere. For both exclusively full-time and exclusively part-time students, relatively fewer obtained their degrees at an institution different from their starting institution (13.9 percent and 15.1 percent, respectively). In contrast, more than one-third (35.7 percent) of mixed enrollment completers (those who graduated after having enrolled both part time and full time at different points in their postsecondary career) completed at an institution other than the one where they first enrolled.


Six-year Outcomes by Age at First Entry

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 6a. Note: Students with birthdate missing were excluded from the above figure.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 6b. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figures 3 and 4 further explore differences in completion and persistence patterns by considering results broken out by students’ age at first entry1.  Students were divided into two age groups, one consisting of those who were age 24 or younger at first entry and the other consisting of those who were over age 24 at first entry. Among students age 24 or younger at first entry, 43.4 percent completed at their starting institution and an additional 13.4 percent completed a degree or certificate at a different institution, for a total completion rate of 56.8 percent. An additional 16.9 percent had no postsecondary credential but were still enrolled at the end of the study period, leaving the percentage of stop-outs (not enrolled) at 26.4 percent.

Students over age 24 at first entry showed a total completion rate of 42.1 percent, with 35.9 percent completing at their starting institution and only 6.2 percent completing at a different institution. An additional 13.5 percent were still enrolled at the end of the study period. Looking across the age groups, a notable difference lies in the greater proportion of the older group (44.4 percent) who had stopped out by the end of the study, compared with 26.4 percent of the younger group who were no longer enrolled.

There is also a higher portion of first completions elsewhere among students age 24 or younger at first entry, compared to older students. First completions outside students’ starting institution occurred at twice the rate in the younger group (13.4 percent) compared to the older group (6.2 percent), a pattern expressed as a share of completions earned elsewhere, in Figure 4.

It should be noted that differences between the age groups can mask differences in enrollment intensity. Consequently, we disaggregate results by enrollment intensity within each age group in the results following this section.

Figure 4 further compares the two age groups by the proportion of completions that were earned at a different institution from where the student first enrolled. Almost a quarter (23.6 percent) of the students aged 24 or younger at first entry completed their first degree or certificate somewhere other than at their starting institution, while 14.8 percent of completers in the older group did so.

1 All tables and figures considering age exclude a small number of students (less than 1 percent of the cohort) whose birth date was missing.


Six-Year Outcomes by Age Group and Enrollment Intensity

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 7. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 5 shows students’ six-year outcomes based on age at first entry and enrollment intensity. Completion rates were the highest for students who enrolled exclusively full time regardless of age at first entry. Among students in the younger age group who enrolled full time, 67 percent completed at their starting institution and an additional 11.5 percent completed at a different institution, for a combined completion rate of 78.5 percent. Full-time students in the older group showed a lower total completion rate (60.1 percent), with 55.9 percent completing at their starting institution and an additional 4.2 percent completing at a different institution. More than half of the full-time students, regardless of age, completed at their starting institution. The stop-out rate was higher for the older group (36.1 percent not enrolled at the end of the study period), more than twice the rate of the younger group (17.8 percent).

Outcomes for exclusively part-time students had a very different pattern. While both full-time and mixed enrollment students showed higher completion rates and lower stop-out rates for the younger groups than for the older groups, part-time students showed the reverse: those who were age 24 or younger at first entry completed at a lower rate and stopped out at a higher rate than did their older counterparts. Specifically, the completion rate for exclusively part-time students in the younger group was 9.6 percent, whereas it was 27.5 for those in the older group. The stop-out rate for the younger group was 77.4 percent, higher than the older group’s stop-out rate of 61.7 percent.

Within both age groups, mixed enrollment students had the highest rates of completion at an institution other than the starting institution, followed by full-time students. Also, among mixed enrollment students, the younger group showed a slightly higher rate than the older group of completing at an institution other than the starting institution.


Six-Year Outcomes by Starting Institution Type

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 8a.

Next we offer an analysis of the six-year outcomes by the type of institution where students started their postsecondary education (see Figure 6). The total completion rate, including completions at the starting institution and elsewhere, was the highest for students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions (71.5 percent). The total completion rates were also above 60 percent for students who started at four-year public and two-year private for-profit institutions (60.5 percent and 61.8 percent, respectively). Just over one-third (36.3 percent) of students who started at two-year public institutions obtained a credential within six years.

Most first completions occurred at students’ starting institution. The highest rate of completion at starting institutions was among students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions (58.6 percent). More noteworthy, however, is the finding that more than one of every nine students who started in each of the public and private nonprofit institutional sectors completed at an institution different from the one where they started. Specifically, 11.9 percent of those who started at four-year public, 12.9 percent of those who started at four-year private nonprofit, 12.4 percent of those who started at two-year public, and 11.6 percent of those who started at two-year private nonprofit institutions completed at an institution other than their starting institution. It is particularly striking that even among the institutions with the lowest same-institution completion rates, two-year public institutions, this proportion holds up, with 9.4 percent completing at a four-year institution and 3 percent at a different two-year institution, for a total of roughly one in eight students completing elsewhere. These results suggest that capturing students’ completions beyond their starting institution will sizably increase total completion rates observed nationally.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 8b.

Figure 7 shows the share of all first completions for each institution type that occurred at an institution different from the starting institution. Across all categories, with the exception of two-year for-profits, more than one in 10 students who completed a credential did so at an institution different from the one where they started. For students who started at two-year public institutions, this figure is more than one in three (34.1 percent).

The proportions of completions at different institutions were similar for students who started at a four-year public institution, a four-year private nonprofit institution, and a two-year private nonprofit institution (19.7 percent, 18.1 percent, and 21.5 percent, respectively).

Students who started at private for-profit institutions, had the highest proportions of their first credential received at their starting institution (88.4 percent and 94.1 percent at four- and two-year institutions, respectively).


Students Who Started At Four-Year Public Institutions

Figures 8 through 10 reveal six-year outcomes for students who started at four-year public institutions, broken out by enrollment intensity (Figure 8), by age group at first entry (Figure 9), and by enrollment intensity within each age group (Figure 10).

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 9.

As shown in Figure 8, overall, for students who started at four-year public institutions, 60.6 percent completed their first degree or certificate within six years, with 48.6 percent completing at their starting institution and an additional 12 percent completing at a different institution. Additionally, 16 percent of students were still enrolled six years after their initial enrollment. Nearly one-quarter (23.4 percent) were no longer enrolled at the end of the study period.

Among exclusively full-time students, 81 percent completed their first degree or certificate within six years, with 71 percent of them completing at the starting institution and 10 percent completing at a different institution (rates of first completion at a different four-year and two-year institution were 8 percent and 2 percent, respectively). The stop-out rate was the lowest for full-time students compared to part-time or mixed enrollment students.

Among exclusively part-time students, 18.9 percent completed their first degree or certificate during the study period, with 3.4 percent completing at an institution different from their starting institution, and 11.2 remained enrolled (with no completion) during the last year of the study period.

Mixed enrollment students had the highest rate of persistence (with no completion), reflecting the logical observation that students following this enrollment pattern may have a longer time than exclusively full-time students in which to complete and, furthermore, that they may progress more steadily toward completion than their exclusively part-time counterparts. Among mixed enrollment students, 46.8 percent completed a credential within six years, including 14.8 percent who completed at somewhere other than their starting institution.

Mixed enrollment students showed a relatively higher rate of first completion at a different institution (14.8 percent) with 10.3 percent completing at a different four-year institution and 4.5 percent at a different two-year institution.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 10. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 9 displays six-year outcomes for students who started at four-year public institutions by age group. Students age 24 or younger had a higher completion rate (63 percent vs. 44.5 percent) and a lower stop-out rate (20.5 percent vs. 41.7 percent) compared to students over age 24 at first entry. The younger group also had a higher completion rate (12.8 percent vs. 5.8 percent) at an institution different from their starting institution.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 11. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 10 displays six-year outcomes for students who started at four-year public institutions by enrollment intensity within each age group.

Overall, for students who started at four-year public institutions, the completion patterns by enrollment intensity for both age groups were similar. Within each age group, exclusively full-time students had the highest proportion of students completing at their starting institution compared to exclusively part-time and mixed enrollment students, while mixed enrollment students had the highest proportion completing at a different four-year institution.

Among students age 24 or younger at first entry and enrolled exclusively full time, 71.5 percent completed at their starting institution, 8.4 percent completed at a different four-year institution, and 2.1 percent completed at a two-year institution. For students in the younger group with mixed enrollment, 31.4 percent completed at their starting institution, 10.8 percent completed at a different four-year institution, and 4.8 percent completed at a two-year institution.

Among students over age 24 at first entry and enrolled exclusively full time, 65.3 percent completed at their starting institution, 3.2 percent at a different four-year institution, and 0.7 percent at a two-year institution. Among students in the older group with mixed enrollment, 38 percent completed at their starting institution, 6.4 percent at a different four-year institution, and 2.3 percent at a two-year institution.

Interestingly, part-time students over age 24 at first entry had a higher six-year completion rate than did part-time students age 24 or younger at first entry (24.5 and 8.4 percent, respectively). A large majority, 86 percent, of part-time completers in the older group completed at their starting institutions, compared to a smaller majority (approximately 60 percent) of part-time completers in the younger group who completed at their starting institutions.


Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions

We next focus on the college outcomes of degree-seeking students who started at two-year public institutions2. In each subsection of results broken out by enrollment intensity, age at first entry, and enrollment intensity within each age group, we first present six-year outcomes of these students, focusing primarily on their first instance of completion. Following this, we explore the two-year entering cohort’s rate of total completions at four-year institutions, both with and without first attaining a credential from the two-year sector.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 12.

In Figure 11, we present six-year outcomes and first completions of students who started at two-year public colleges, by enrollment intensity.

Among all students who started at a two-year public institution, 36.3 percent received a degree or certificate within six years, with 23.9 percent completing at their starting institution, 3 percent at a different two-year institution, and 9.4 percent at a (different) four-year institution. Note that Figure 11 measures first-degrees only, meaning that some of the 23.9 percent who completed at the starting institution may have later completed an additional degree at a four-year institution, but none of the 9.4 percent who completed at a four-year institution had completed an associate’s degree first (see Figure 12 for a view of all four-year completers).

More than half of the full-time students (52.6 percent) completed within six years. Among this group, 38.2 percent completed at their starting institution, with an additional 2.7 percent completing at a different two-year institution and 11.7 percent completing at a four-year institution. Given that the overall stop-out rate for full-time students was 20 percent (see Figure 1), it is noteworthy that 43.3 percent of full-time students who started at a two-year public institution stopped out during the period of this study, more than twice the overall rate for full-time students.

Compared to exclusively full-time students, exclusively part-time students had a very low six-year completion rate (18.4 percent). Of all part-time students, 16.2 percent completed at their starting institution, while only 1.5 percent and 0.7 percent completed at a different two-year institution and at a four-year institution, respectively. As noted above, low six-year completion rates for students who enrolled exclusively part time are unsurprising and suggest the importance of following these students for longer periods.

Among students with mixed enrollment, however, 20 percent completed at their starting institution, with an additional 3.4 percent and 9.9 percent completing at a different two-year institution and a (different) four-year institution, respectively. Completers with mixed enrollment intensity completed at institutions different from their starting institution at a rate nearly as high (13.2 percent) as that for exclusively full-time students (14.4 percent).

2 Notably, results for non-degree students who started at two-year public institutions showed significant numbers of completions as well. For comparison, see Tables 15-17 in Appendix C.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 12.

With a particular interest in four-year completion among students who started at two-year public institutions, we focus next on percentages of students who completed at a four-year institution, both with and without first obtaining a credential from a two-year institution. Figure 12 shows all completions at four-year institutions for students who started at two-year public institutions, both with and without a credential from a two-year institution, exploring how these completion rates differed by students’ enrollment intensity.

Overall, a total of 15 percent of students who started at two-year public institutions completed at a four-year institution within six years. Among these, 5.6 percent had previously received a credential from a two-year institution (not necessarily the starting institution). Note that the 9.4 percent indicated here as completing at a four-year institution without a two-year degree are the same as the 9.4 percent shown in Figure 11, above, who completed their first degree at a four-year institution.

With a total rate of completions at four-year institutions at 25.2 percent, full-time students showed the highest proportion of completions at four-year institutions, either with (11.7 percent) or without (13.5 percent) a credential from a two-year institution, compared to part-time and mixed enrollment students.

Part-time students showed a very low rate of completion at a four-year institution within six years, as expected given that the study period was too short for most of them to earn the necessary credits. Nonetheless, 2 percent of these students did manage to complete a degree while enrolling exclusively part time, with 0.7 percent receiving the credential from a four-year institution without first graduating from the two-year, and 1.3 percent with a completion at a four-year institution after receiving a credential from a two-year institution.

Additionally, among students with mixed enrollment, 9.9 percent obtained their first postsecondary credential at a four-year institution, while 3.5 percent completed at a four-year institution after receiving a degree or a certificate from a two-year institution.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 13. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Similar to Figure 11, Figure 13 shows six-year outcomes of students who started at two-year public institutions and their first completions at four-year institutions, by age at first entry.

The overall completion rates for students age 24 or younger and those over age 24 at first entry were very similar (36.5 and 35.8 percent, respectively), with students in the older group having a higher completion rate at their starting institution than students in the younger group (28.8 and 22.4 percent, respectively). In comparison with students in the older group, students in the younger group had a higher rate of first completion at a four-year institution (10.9 and 4.5 percent, respectively).

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 13. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 14 presents patterns of completion at four-year institutions, with and without a postsecondary credential from a two-year institution, among students who started at two-year public institutions by age at first entry.

Among students age 24 or younger at first entry, 10.9 percent completed at a four-year institution without previously receiving a certificate or degree from a two-year institution, and 6.2 percent completed at a four-year institution with a credential from a two-year institution.

Among students over age 24 at first entry, 4.5 percent earned their first postsecondary credential at a four-year institution and 3.4 percent did so with a credential from a two-year institution.

Compared to the older group, the younger group had a markedly higher proportion of students completing at a four-year institution either with or without a degree or a certificate from a two-year institution.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 14. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 15 presents six-year outcomes and first completions for students who started at two-year public institutions by age at first entry and enrollment intensity.

Overall, a larger proportion of students over age 24 compared to students age 24 or younger at first entry completed at their starting institution. This pattern held regardless of students’ enrollment intensity. Conversely, a larger proportion of students in the younger group than in the older group completed at a four-year institution.

Among full-time enrollees, the overall completion rate was higher for students in the younger group than it was for students in the older group (54.4 and 45.4 percent, respectively). The older part-time students, on the other hand, had a much higher completion rate (17 percentage points higher) than their younger part-time counterparts.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 14. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 16 displays completion at four-year institutions, with and without a postsecondary credential from a two-year institution, among students who started at two-year public institutions by enrollment intensity and age of entry.

With the exception of those enrolled exclusively part time, a larger proportion of students age 24 or younger than students over age 24 at first entry earned a credential at a four-year institution.

Among students in the younger group, 13.9 percent of full-time students earned their first postsecondary credential at a four-year institution, and 15.4 percent of full-time students did so with a degree or a certificate from a two-year institution, achieving in total a 29.3 percent completion rate at four-year institutions. Among full-time students in the older group, the overall four-year completion rate was 9.4 percent, with 3.6 percent completing at a four-year institution without previously receiving a credential from a two-year institution and 5.8 percent completing at a four-year institution with a degree or a certificate from a two-year institution. Mixed enrollment students in the younger group also had a higher completion rate at four-year institutions than their mixed enrollment counterparts in the older group (14.4 and 9.2 percent, respectively).

While, in both age groups, exclusively part-time students had a lower rate of completion at a four-year institution than full-time and mixed enrollment students, completion at a four-year institution was higher in the older group than in the younger group of exclusively part-time students.


Students Who Started at Four-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 18.

Figure 17 focuses on the six-year outcomes by enrollment intensity of students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions.

Completions at a different institution increased the total completion rates for students irrespective of enrollment intensity. This gain was especially notable for mixed enrollment students: completions at a different institution increased the total completion rate for this group by 20 percentage points. Only a small proportion of students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions completed at a two-year institution, but the mixed enrollment population had a higher rate completion at a two-year institution (4.5 percent) than full-time (1.3 percent) and part-time (3.7 percent) students.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 19. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 18 presents six-year college outcomes by age at first entry for students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions.

Among students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions, students age 24 or younger at first entry had a higher overall completion rate (74.6 percent) than students age 24 and over at first entry (52.8 percent). The younger group also had higher rates of first completion both at their starting institution (60.6 percent) and at a different four-year institution (11.6 percent) than the older group (46.3 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively). While similar percentages of students were still enrolled by the end of the study period in both the younger and the older age groups (9.9 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively), 36.7 percent of students in the older group stopped out by the end of the study period, more than twice the rate of the younger group (15.5 percent).

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 20. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Figure 19 further disaggregates the six-year outcomes of four-year private nonprofit starters by enrollment intensity within each age group.

Full-time students age 24 or younger at first entry had a higher overall first completion rate compared to full-time students over age 24 at first entry (86.3 percent and 70.9 percent, respectively). The rate of first completion at the starting institution was also higher for younger full-time students, with three-quarters of the younger full-time students completing at their starting institution and a little less than two-thirds of their older full-time counterparts doing so. First completions at institutions different from their starting institution were highest among younger mixed enrollment students, resulting in a gain of 22 percentage points for this group.

The comparisons between the older and the younger groups showed some interesting patterns, particularly within the mixed enrollment and part-time enrollment groups. Specifically, older students with mixed enrollment showed a higher rate of first completion at their starting institutions (44.4 percent) than younger students with mixed enrollment (27.1 percent). However, older mixed enrollment students showed a lower completion rate at a different institution (7.8 percent) than their younger mixed enrollment counterparts (22.7 percent). Older mixed enrollment students also persisted (without completion) at a lower rate (16.4 percent) than their younger mixed enrollment counterparts (26 percent), leaving a higher stop-out rate for the older group than for the younger group (31.4 percent and 24.3 percent, respectively).

Finally, the difference in completion rates between the younger part-time students and the older part-time students was perhaps the most intriguing phenomenon. A little less than a quarter of exclusively part-time students age 24 or younger at first entry (24 percent total) either completed (14.1 percent, as shown in the figure) or were still enrolled (8.9 percent) by the end of the study period. In contrast, fully 44.6 percent of the exclusively part-time students over age 24 at first entry showed similar outcomes: 35.1 percent completed and 9.5 percent were still enrolled at the end of the study period.

These results point to the importance of institutional retention policies and practices that target the distinct needs and circumstances of traditional-age students and adult learners, especially those students in both age groups who start as part-time enrollees or shift to part-time enrollment during the course of their college experience.


Students Who Started at Four-Year Private For-Profit Institutions

We next examine the six-year college outcomes for students who started at four-year private for-profit institutions. Similar to the results presented in the previous sections, these results were broken down by enrollment intensity, age group, and the category combining both.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 21.

As previously shown in Figure 6, Figure 20 shows that students who started at four-year private for-profit institutions had the lowest completion rates — 37.8 percent at the starting institution and 5.1 percent at a different institution — compared to students who started at other four-year institutions. The gain from completions elsewhere was also smaller for students who started at four-year private for-profit institutions than for students who started at other four-year institutions. Among students who enrolled exclusively full time, 58.7 percent completed at their starting institution, with only 2.6 percent of additional first completions at a different institution.

Although the stop-out risk was the highest for part-time students (61.3 percent), these students actually had a higher overall completion rate (27.7 percent) and a higher completion rate at their starting institution (24.6 percent) compared to mixed enrollment students (25.2 percent overall completion rate including 17.3 percent completion at the starting institution).

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 22. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

Further investigation of six-year outcomes by age group, as shown in Figure 21, reveals patterns among students who started at four-year private for-profit institutions that are very different from those we have observed for other institution types. Students in the older group who started at four-year private for-profit institutions had a higher completion rate overall and a higher completion rate at their starting institution compared to students in the younger group who started at these institutions. The older group also exhibited a slightly lower risk of stopping out (42.8 percent) than their younger counterparts (45.2 percent). It is important to note, however, that a large majority, more than 80 percent, of four-year private for-profit enrollees were over age 24 at first entry. Thus, findings related to this sector may mainly reflect patterns followed by older students who started at four-year private for-profit institutions.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 23. Note: Students with birth date missing were excluded from the above figure.

When these outcome patterns are broken down further by enrollment intensity within each age group, they show that both exclusively full-time and exclusively part-time students from the older group had higher rates of overall completion and of completion at their starting institution compared to their counterparts from the younger group (see Figure 22). Specifically, 60.9 percent of full-time students over age 24 at first entry completed at their starting institution, while this rate was 48.3 percent for full-time students age 24 or younger at first entry. Of the older group who enrolled exclusively part time, more than a quarter completed at their starting institution (26.7 percent), while only 10 percent of the younger part-time group did so. The results for part-time students are consistent with our observation at other institution types, suggesting that older students might be better at balancing the demands of school, work, and family.

Mixed enrollment students in two age groups showed similar patterns in their completion outcomes but differed slightly in their proportions of students still enrolled, with the younger group showing a higher percentage of still enrolled (without completion) by the end of the study period (28.7 percent vs. 24 percent).

COMPLETION ACROSS STATE LINES

Previous studies of college student completion, restricted by the data available either within institutions or within state data systems, have focused primarily on completion at the starting institution or within system or state boundaries. The national coverage of enrollments and degrees provided in Clearinghouse data enables us to offer policymakers and researchers a national view of completion not available in studies using other data sources. Drawing on this resource, we examine patterns of completion across state lines in this section.

For students who completed a degree or certificate at institutions different from their starting institution, Figures 23 through 25 show the patterns of first completions across state lines, by students’ age group, enrollment intensity, and the category combining both. For the purpose of this analysis, institutions that report enrollments to the Clearinghouse from a central office that covers a system of campuses residing in more than one state (“multistate institutions”) are excluded from the starting cohort, since we have no way of identifying in which state the students began. (Results for students who started at multistate institutions are included separately in Appendix C, Tables 27-29.)

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 24. Note: Students who started at a multistate institution were excluded from the above figure.

Overall, 12.2 percent of all students completed at institutions other than their starting institution, with 8.3 percent doing so in the same state where they began and 3.5 percent in a different state. The remaining 0.4 percent completed at a multistate institution where the actual location of the student could not be determined (see Figure 23).3

Thus, among students who completed at an institution different from where they started, receiving the first credential in a different state was quite common. More than one-third of the full-time students completing at a different institution did so in a different state (3.7 percent out of 10.8 percent). About one-third of part-time students who completed at a different institution and about a quarter of mixed enrollment students who completed at a different institution did so at an out-of-state institution (1.1 percent out of 3 percent and 3.7 percent out of 14.6 percent, respectively).

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 25. Note: Students who started at a multistate institution were excluded from the above figure.

Further results on completion at institutions other than students’ starting institution broken out by age group are shown in Figure 24. Among those who completed at a different institution, the younger group of students showed higher rates of completion at a different in-state institution (9.1 percent) and at a different out-of-state institution (3.9 percent) compared to the older group of students (3.9 percent and 1.8 percent for different in-state and different out-of-state institutions, respectively). These results may suggest that older students were perhaps more restricted by institutional or geographic boundaries, perhaps due to family or work obligations. It is important to keep in mind, however, that completion across institutions and across state lines does not necessarily represent the actual mobility of students, as many students may change institutions without completing a degree or certificate.

3 To place this small proportion in further context, we should note additionally that many students who enrolled in multistate institutions did so online and/or from their original home state.

*This figure is based on data shown in Appendix C, Table 26. Note: Students who started at a multistate institution were excluded from the above figure.

The patterns of first completion across state lines disaggregated by enrollment intensity showed similarities and differences between the two age groups (see Figure 25). Full-time and mixed enrollment students age 24 or younger at first entry completed at out-of-state institutions at the same rate (4 percent for both full-time and mixed enrollment students). In both age groups, mixed enrollment students obtained their first degree or credential at out-of-state institutions at a higher rate than their exclusively full-time or part-time counterparts. For students enrolled exclusively full time and those with mixed enrollment, higher percentages of students in the younger group received their first credential out of state, compared to older students sharing the same enrollment intensity. It is important to note, however, that these comparisons should be understood in the context of findings, presented earlier in this report, showing higher completion rates overall among students age 24 or younger.

Overall, these results show that among students who earned a degree or certificate at a different institution, many, regardless of age or enrollment intensity, also changed states when changing institutions. About one-quarter of first completions at a different institution occurred at an out-of-state institution, with the exception of full-time students in the younger group and part-time students in the older group. For those two remaining categories — full-time students in the younger group and part-time students in the older group — out-of-state completions represented even larger proportions of first completions at a different institution: 34.8 percent of exclusively full-time students age 24 or younger at first entry who later completed at an institution different from their starting institution attained their credential out of state; an even greater percentage (42.4 percent) of exclusively part-time students over age 24 at first entry who completed at a different institution completed at an out-of-state institution.

Taken together, these findings point to ways in which student pathways differ across types of starting institutions as well as by students’ age at first entry and enrollment intensity. This report highlights differences in six-year outcomes of students, centering on the most widely used measure of success for both students and colleges — college completion. By disaggregating results by students’ age at first entry and by enrollment intensity throughout the study period, this study sheds light on the outcomes for students often excluded from relevant policy discussions: students who are older and those who follow nontraditional postsecondary education pathways. Further, the national coverage of Clearinghouse data used for this study makes it possible to capture student mobility and completion beyond institutional boundaries and across state lines. These findings have the potential to contribute to ongoing discussions of institutional accountability, emerging policy initiatives to use more nuanced and targeted measures of student success, and institutional practices aiming at providing a supportive environment for all students.


Discussion


Today’s students follow complex enrollment pathways in pursuit of a postsecondary education. As previous studies in the Signature Report series have demonstrated, measuring success outcomes at students’ starting institution alone captures only part of the postsecondary experience of many students. Results presented in the first Signature Report, National Postsecondary Enrollment Trends: Before, During, and After the Great Recession (Hossler et al., 2011), for example, showed that rates of student persistence (continued enrollment at any U.S. institution) were considerably higher than rates of retention (continued enrollment at the same institution) in almost all institutional categories, with gaps between these two measures ranging from just under 10 to over 18 percentage points. In its second Signature Report, Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions (Hossler et al., 2012a), the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that one-third of all first-time students transferred to or enrolled at a different institution at least once within five years after their initial enrollment and that more than a quarter of student transfers were across state lines. Extending that research, this new Signature Report examines a key student success outcome aligned with the national college attainment goals: first completion rates, encompassing postsecondary credentials of all levels and types and accounting not just for students who finish at their starting institution but also for those who finish at any other institution nationwide. For this study, we followed students to different institutions and across state lines to examine how tracking students beyond their starting institution changes the completion rate picture. In this report, our goal is twofold: first, to incorporate the complexity of students’ enrollment behaviors into the overall picture of outcomes measures and, second, to highlight the outcomes of student groups that research and policies often overlook: nontraditional-age, part-time, and mixed enrollment students. We discuss our key findings and their implications below.

COMPREHENSIVE COMPLETION RATES BEYOND THOSE AT THE STARTING INSTITUTION

Accounting for completions beyond the starting institution raises the overall six-year completion rate above the halfway point, from 42 percent to 54 percent. This finding shows that students are doing a better job of pursuing their educational goals than our existing institution-focused metrics are giving them credit. These results also demonstrate that the multiple institutions serving mobile students are also assisting them in achieving their educational goals. The discussions that follow help point the way to policies that recognize and promote such student success while also crediting the institutions that contribute to it.

Counting students who graduated not at their starting institution but elsewhere increased the completion rate for every institution type and student subgroup we studied. The increases ranged from 4 percentage points for two-year private for-profit institutions to 13 percentage points for four-year private nonprofit institutions. In addition, completion rates for mixed enrollment students, those who attended both full and part time during the six years, increased by about 15 percentage points, followed by an 11-percentage-point increase for exclusively full-time students and a 3-percentage-point increase for exclusively part-time students. The 12-percentage-point increase in completion rates over the same-institution graduation rates due to degrees earned elsewhere takes on even greater importance when considered as a percentage of all degree completions by students in the starting cohort. Overall, more than one in five students who completed a degree (22.4 percent) did so not at their starting institution but somewhere else. That figure is closer to one in four (23.6 percent) for traditional-age students and more than one in three (34.1 percent) for students who started at two-year public institutions. Clearly, existing measures of institutional or student success that do not count one-fifth to one-third of completions are inadequate for facilitating either accountability or improvement efforts. It is only by tracking individual students across institutions and states, as the Clearinghouse data enable, that broader measures of student outcomes become possible. These measures will help policymaking focus on persistence to graduation beyond the starting institution and will broaden institutional accountability to include all students, not just those on a traditional postsecondary path.

COMPLETION RATES FOR ADULT LEARNERS

The completion rate gains from completions elsewhere than the starting institution were greater for students age 24 or younger at first entry into college than they were for students over age 24 at first entry (13 percentage points and 6 percentage points, respectively). While adding completions beyond the starting institution increased the completion rate for students over age 24 at first entry, a large gap remained between the completion rates of younger and older students, with the latter group having a much lower overall six-year completion rate (56.8 percent vs. 42.1 percent, respectively). Furthermore, by the end of the study period, 44.4 percent of the older students were not enrolled anywhere, compared to 26.4 percent of the younger students. This suggests that a low completion rate is not simply a matter of taking a longer time to complete, but rather that there is a serious issue of nonpersistence to graduation among students over age 24. Disaggregating data by age and enrollment intensity demonstrated that exclusively part-time students over age 24 at first entry actually showed a higher completion rate than traditional age part-timers did. Thus, the overall completion rates of older students were largely driven by the completions of the full-time students among them. This clearly indicates that institutions should tailor their efforts for improving student outcomes to the needs of different types of students and should provide specific services for adult students, especially full-time adult learners who may find it challenging to balance a full course-load with work and/or family responsibilities.

Institution’s policies and organizational structures clearly have particular effects on older students. Compared to those of traditional-age students, the success rates of adult learners varied greatly depending on the type of institution they attended. At four-year private nonprofit institutions, the completion rate for older students was 22 percentage points lower than it was for traditional-age students, and at four-year public institutions, that gap was 18.5 percentage points. Notably, however, at two-year public institutions, the completion rates were similar for these two age groups: 35.7 percent for older students and 36.4 percent for younger students. At four-year private for-profit institutions, the completion rates of older students was actually higher, by 8.9 percentage points. These findings suggest that the different postsecondary sectors can learn from one another and develop academic programs and support systems that enhance student success. Institutions in each of these sectors may need to adjust their strategies for supporting the success of adult learners so as to address the particular patterns and gaps emerging among students.

DEFINING ENROLLMENT INTENSITY

Mixed Enrollment Students

This study’s more nuanced and comprehensive definition of enrollment intensity contributes to our understanding of the relationship between students’ enrollment status and student outcomes. Most studies define enrollees as full-time or part-time students based on the enrollment intensity shown in their first term alone. While some students maintain the same enrollment status throughout their postsecondary career, many of today’s students change from full time to part time, or vice versa, from term to term throughout their postsecondary career. For this study, we categorized this latter group as mixed enrollment students, a group that comprised more than half of the study’s cohort (51.3 percent). Mixed enrollment students are a large group, we found, and their six-year outcomes showed distinctive patterns compared to the outcomes of exclusively full-time and exclusively part-time students. The outcomes of mixed enrollment students are clearly misrepresented, however, by traditional measures. This is especially true for students who first entered at full-time status but later changed to part-time status. Two-thirds of the mixed enrollment students in this study started out full-time; many graduation studies, using existing institution-focused definitions, would have classified them as full-time students. Decreased enrollment intensity increases students’ expected time to graduation, but traditional measures cannot reflect this. By holding mixed enrollment students to a full-time standard, these measures penalize both the students and the institutions that serve them. Our analysis also showed that, compared to exclusively full-time and exclusively part-time students, a larger proportion of mixed enrollment students completed at an institution other than their starting institution; traditional graduation metrics that focus on starting institutions would have counted these students as nonpersisters. This finding, perhaps one of the most important in this report, merits more attention from both academic researchers as well as institutional and public policymakers. It is important that researchers and policymakers understand the extent to which current conventions of categorizing enrollment patterns distort the success outcomes results of both part-time and full-time students in measures that characterize students’ enrollment intensity only by their first-term status.

Exclusively Part-Time Students

Examining the outcomes of mixed enrollment students separately leads to a better understanding also of the outcomes of part-time students. The low completion rates of part-time students are better understood by recognizing that with exclusively part-time enrollment, a six-year period does not typically allow the student enough time to complete a four-year degree. By the same token, however, one would expect a large share of these students to be still enrolled at the end of our study period, and yet this was not the case. Instead, we found that 59 percent of part-time students at four-year private nonprofit institutions, and 70 percent at four-year public and two-year public institutions, had either dropped out or stopped out, showing no enrollments in the final year of the study. Additional insights come from disaggregating exclusively part-time students within the adult and traditional-age students. The category of exclusively part-time enrollees is the only one in which older students have a higher completion rate than traditional age students, which suggests that enrolling exclusively part time is associated with completion risks for traditional-age students. Some of these students may eventually return to complete at a later date, but there is likely more that institutions can do to keep such students on track for steadier progress toward a degree.

FOUR-YEAR COMPLETIONS FOR FIRST-TIME STUDENTS WHO STARTED AT TWO-YEAR PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS

In addition to examining the overall completion rates of students who started at two-year public institutions, we looked at the completions among these students at four-year institutions, giving particular attention to whether they received their four-year degree with or without first earning a credential at a two-year institution. Overall, 15 percent of two-year starters completed a degree at a four-year institution by the end of the study period, and nearly two-thirds of them (63 percent, or 9 percent of the full cohort that started at two-year public institutions) did so without first obtaining a two-year degree. In other words, these students transferred to a four-year institution without receiving any credential from their starting (or from any other) two-year institution. Traditional graduation rate measures that focus only on completions at the starting institution do not account for this type of outcome. This means that community colleges do not receive any credit for the two-thirds of their students who go on to complete a four-year degree.

In our second Signature Report, Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions (Hossler et al., 2012), we reported that about 26 percent of the starting two-year cohort transferred to a four-year institution within five years — six percent of them having obtained a two-year credential and 20 percent of them without a two-year credential. The findings from this report as well as our earlier one provide evidence that, although many state policies encourage students to obtain a degree at two-year public institutions and then to transfer to a four-year institution, in reality, many students make the transfer without a two-year credential. In our previous report, the rate of transfer to a four-year institution without a two-year degree was three times that of the post-degree transfers. The same pattern did not hold with completions, however. In other words, our findings suggest that while transferring to a four-year institution with a two-year degree is a good pathway to a degree from a four-year institution, transferring pre-degree is not, even though the latter is more common. This demonstrates the relevance of enacting policies that encourage transfer with an associate’s degree, but it also shows the need for other policies that support students who prefer or need to do otherwise. Policies ensuring the seamless transfer of credits and the student’s transition to a new institution are needed. While state policies can do much to address the former, the latter also requires the active involvement of four-year institutions.

OUT-OF-STATE COMPLETIONS

The second Signature Report shed light on the prevalence of out-of-state transfers by showing that over a quarter of all transfers, or 9 percent of the starting cohort, crossed state lines to continue their postsecondary education at a different institution. Extending that earlier finding, this study continued tracking students after they transferred and we found that out of the full starting cohort, 3.5 percent received a degree in a state different from where they started. Thus, out-of-state completions represent about 6.5 percent of all completions, and over a quarter (28.7 percent) of all students who completed a degree somewhere other than at their starting institution. The completion outcomes for these students are typically out of the range, not only of institution-based graduation rate measures but also of state longitudinal databases that track students among different institutions only within a single state. Our findings speak to the value of using multiple sources of information, including data such as those from the National Student Clearinghouse, when studying student enrollment outcomes. Combined the findings on student mobility from the previous report and completion rates from this report demonstrate that while many students cross state lines to continue their postsecondary education, not many of them graduate out of state (some of these students may return to their original state and complete their degree at their starting institution or another institution). One possible reason for the low completion rate of transfers across state lines could be that state transfer and articulation agreements focus almost exclusively on in-state transfers, missing the opportunity to support the completions of cross-state transfers. Armed with more complete data on transfer and completion phenomena for all types of students, policymakers can begin to address these challenges.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC POLICYMAKING

Our findings support the call to develop new student outcomes measures that capture the complex enrollment behaviors of today’s students — outcomes measures that incorporate both the student perspective and the institutional perspective for enhancing college completion rates. Such an approach will prevent misclassifying as failures those students who persist or graduate at an institution different from their starting institution, and also will credit institutions for serving the needs of students who transfer or who enroll part time. This balanced approach will also mean enacting public policies that support student persistence to graduation anywhere in the postsecondary education system.

In this new environment, institutions will be accountable for the success outcomes not only of their full-time students but also of their part-time students as well as of students who change their enrollment status during their postsecondary career. While maintaining funding formulas that provide incentives for institutions to retain and graduate their students, states should also ensure that such incentives raise institutions’ accountability for retaining and graduating part-time and mixed enrollment students as well as adult learners, given the distinctive nature and pathways of these groups of students.

The pressing need for new measures of student success outcomes is widely acknowledged. Less common — and yet critical to developing such measures — is a truly student-level perspective of the complexity of enrollment behaviors currently displayed throughout the postsecondary education system nationwide. This report demonstrates the power of an existing high-coverage, reliable national student-level data to inform that perspective.


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Appendix A: Methodological Notes


This report describes six-year college student success outcomes, focusing primarily on degree and certificate completion of a cohort of first-time-in-college degree-seeking students who started their postsecondary education at U.S. colleges and universities in the fall of 2006. Six-digit distinct OPE-ID codes were used to identify postsecondary education institutions. The study follows this cohort for six years, through May 31, 2012. The results presented in the report center on student outcomes over the six-year span, including completion (i.e., receipt of any postsecondary credential by the end of the study period), persistence (i.e., having enrollment records at any postsecondary institution during the last year of the study period), or stop-out without completion (i.e., having no enrollment records at any postsecondary institution during the last year of the study period). The report mainly focuses on students’ first completion, with further distinctions drawn between completions awarded at the institution where a student first enrolled (his or her starting institution) and those awarded at an institution other than the starting institution. For students who started at a two-year public institution, this report also presents an overview of their completions at a four-year institution, either as a first completion (i.e., those who completed a four-year degree without having first earned a credential at a two-year institution1) or as a subsequent degree after a first completion awarded in the two-year sector. In addition to results on degree and certificate completion rates by enrollment intensity, age group, and starting institution type, the report includes results on completion across state lines, and for students who started at multistate institutions.

1 Throughout this report, “two-year institution” is used broadly to designate institutions offering both associate’s degrees and less-than-two-year degrees and certificates.

NATIONAL COVERAGE OF THE DATA

The National Student Clearinghouse® (the Clearinghouse) is a unique and trusted source for higher education enrollment and degree verification. Since its creation in 1993, the participation of institutions nationwide in Clearinghouse data-collection programs has steadily increased. Currently, Clearinghouse data include more than 3,400 colleges and 94 percent of U.S. college enrollments. The Clearinghouse has a nearly 20-year track record of providing automated student enrollment and degree verifications. Due to the Clearinghouse’s unique student-level record approach to data collection in its StudentTrackerSM service, the Clearinghouse database provides opportunities for robust analysis not afforded by the more commonly used institution-level national databases.

The enrollment data used in this report provide an unduplicated headcount for the fall 2006 first-time-in-college student cohort. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. Moreover, because this database is comprised of student-level data, researchers can use it to link concurrent as well as consecutive enrollments of individual students at multiple institutions — a capability that distinguishes the Clearinghouse database from national databases built with institution-level data. For instance, in the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) — one of the most widely used national data sets in postsecondary education research — concurrent enrollments remain unlinked and, therefore, are counted as representing separate individuals.

COHORT IDENTIFICATION, DATA CUT, AND DEFINITIONS

Focusing on the cohort of first-time-in-college degree-seeking students who started their postsecondary studies at U.S. colleges and universities in the fall of 2006, this report examines completion over a span of six years through May 31, 2012. In order not to exclude or misrepresent the outcomes of students whose postsecondary pathways included enrollment in college preparatory summer study, the report also includes students who started their studies in the summer of 2006 (i.e., May 1–August 31, 2006). Furthermore, to limit the cohort to first-time undergraduate students only, the study uses data from the Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker and DegreeVerifySM services to confirm that students included in the study (1) showed no previous college enrollment in the four years prior to May 31, 2006 and (2) had not previously completed a college degree.

In defining the study cohort, it was necessary to identify a coherent set of first-enrollment records that would as closely as possible represent a starting point for the fall 2006 cohort of first-time-in-college students. With this goal in mind, the researchers excluded enrollment records that were either (1) not clearly interpretable within the study’s framework and data limitations or (2) inconsistent with the experiences of first-time college enrollment that were the focus of the analysis. Students who showed concurrent enrollments (defined in this step as enrollments overlapping by at least one day) in the fall 2006 term were therefore excluded from the study, as were students who showed no enrollment lasting longer than 21 days in fall 2006. Also excluded were students who had any enrollment terms shorter than one day or longer than 365 days, who first enrolled in postsecondary study outside the U.S. or its territories (e.g., Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands), or who started at non-IPEDS institutions.

Because our outcome of interest was completion, we sought to focus analyses on degree-seeking students only. Consequently, we attempted to exclude non-degree-seeking, casual course takers from the cohort. For students who first enrolled in four-year institutions, non-degree-seeking students were defined as those who had only one enrollment record, with intensity of less than half time. Students who started at two-year institutions were excluded as non-degree-seeking students if they failed to meet at least one of the following criteria: (1) one or more full-time enrollment before August 15, 2007; or (2) two enrollment terms with half-time status or more before December 31, 20072. Finally, we excluded students whose last enrollment record was in any of the following institutional contexts: a two-year private nonprofit institution in California or Georgia or a two-year private for-profit institution in Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, or Ohio3. These students were excluded because of the low coverage for these institution types within these states, combined with high rates of stop-out and undercoverage for these institutions, or with changes of institution type within the study period. Because of these limitations, the available data did not describe these students’ pathways well enough to be used as bases for weights (see below more on weights).

In summary, the study cohort included students who fulfilled all of the following conditions:

  1. Enrolled in a Title IV institution in fall 2006 (defined as any term with a start date betweenAugust 15 and October 31, 2006, inclusive);
  2. Did not have a previous enrollment record, as shown in StudentTracker, between June 1, 2002,and May 31, 2006;
  3. Did not receive any degree or certificate from a postsecondary institution prior to the first day of enrollment in fall 2006, according to Clearinghouse data;
  4. Enrolled at just one institution in fall 2006 (i.e., showed no overlapping multiple enrollmentsAugust 15-October 31, 2006);
  5. Enrolled for at least one term that was longer than 21 days and that started betweenAugust 15 and October 31, 2006;
  6. Showed no enrollment terms of implausible length; that is, either longer than 365 days or shorter than one day throughout the study period;
  7. Had at least one legitimate enrollment status throughout the study period; that is, enrolled for at least one term with full-time, part-time (i.e. half-time or less than half-time), or withdrawal status4;
  8. Showed intent to seek a degree or certificate. That is:
    1. For students who started at four-year institutions, enrolled at least one term with an intensity of half time or higher.
    2. For students who started at two-year institutions, either:
      1. Enrolled full time for at least one term before August 15, 2007, or
      2. Enrolled at least half time for any two terms before December 31, 2007;
  9. Did not show a last enrollment record in any of the following contexts, identified above as having a combination of low coverage and high rates of stop-out:
    1. Two-year private nonprofit institutions in California,
    2. Two-year private nonprofit institutions in Georgia,
    3. Two-year private for-profit institutions in Kentucky,
    4. Two-year private for-profit institutions in Nebraska,
    5. Two-year private for-profit institutions in New York, or
    6. Two-year private for-profit institutions in Ohio.

2 We excluded 39,423 students who began at two-year institutions, as non-degree-seeking students as a result.

3 A total of 1,884 students were excluded from the degree-seeking cohort following this criterion.

4 The Clearinghouse receives enrollment status data as full-time, half-time, less-than-half-time, withdrawal, or other statuses from its participating institutions.

ENROLLMENT INTENSITY

For this report, enrollment intensity is classified as exclusively full time throughout the study period, exclusively part time throughout the study period, or mixed enrollment (including both full-time and part-time enrollments), based on students’ enrollments across all terms through the first completion or, for noncompleters, through the entire study period. In establishing students’ enrollment intensity in this way, enrollments during summer terms (defined as terms with both the start date and the end date falling between May 1 and August 31 of each year in the study period) and short terms (defined as terms lasting less than 21 days) were excluded from consideration.

For terms in which a student showed concurrent enrollment records (i.e., records that overlapped by 30 days or more), the two highest-intensity enrollments were considered. For example, a student concurrently enrolled half time at two institutions was categorized as enrolled full time for that term. Overall, for each term under consideration (i.e., all terms except summer terms and short terms − less than 21 days − up through the first completion, or, if no completion, throughout the entire study period), the “exclusively full-time enrollment” designation was assigned to students whose enrollment showed one of three situations: (1) the enrollment record showed exclusively full-time enrollment for all terms; or (2) for terms with concurrent enrollments, the two highest-intensity enrollment records included at least one full-time enrollment; or (3) for terms with concurrent enrollments, the two highest-intensity enrollment records both reflected half-time enrollment.

The “part-time enrollment” designation was assigned to students whose enrollment for each term under consideration showed one of the two following situations: (1) the enrollment record showed exclusively half-time or less than half-time enrollment; or (2) for terms with concurrent enrollments, the two highest-intensity enrollment records included some combination of half-time and less than half-time enrollments, but no full-time enrollment, and no more than one half-time enrollment.

The category of mixed enrollment was applied to students who showed a combination of full-time and part-time enrollments across the terms under consideration. Finally, students who showed records indicating withdrawal but no full-time or part-time enrollments were randomly assigned to an enrollment intensity category.

AGE GROUP

This report focuses on two age groups, “24 years old or younger” and “over 24 years old.” Students whose 24th birthday fell before December 31, 2006, were placed in the “over 24 years old” group, while those who turned 24 on December 31, 2006, or later were placed in the “24 years old or younger” group.

CONCURRENT COMPLETION

For this report, we examined completion by first-time students at either two-year or four-year institutions. We defined completion as having obtained a degree or certificate at any institution within the six-year study period, i.e., by May 31, 2012. Clearinghouse data provide a unique headcount of U.S. college enrollments during each term, which allows for the tracking of individuals including those with concurrent completion. In preparing data for this report, a small number of individuals showed more than one completion awarded at multiple institutions on the same day. In these instances, a primary completion record was selected using decision rules specific to the sector of the student’s starting institution.

The first set of decision rules was applied to students with concurrent completions who started at a two-year institution:

  1. Concurrent Completions at Two Different Two-Year Institutions
    1. Same over different: Completions at the starting institution were selected over completions at other institutions.
    2. Random selection: If the first decision rule did not result in a single completion record being selected, then a completion record was selected at random.
  2. Concurrent Completions at One Two-Year Institution and One Four-Year Institution
    1. If the two-year completion was at the two-year starting institution, then the two-year degree completion was considered the first completion and the four-year degree completion was considered a subsequent completion.
    2. If the two-year completion was at an institution different from the two-year starting institution, then the four-year degree completion was considered the first completion and outcome of interest.
  3. Concurrent Completions at Two or More Four-Year Institutions
    1. Random selection: If a student started at a two-year institution but later completed at two or more four-year institutions concurrently, then a completion record was selected at random.

The second set of decision rules was applied to students who started at four-year institutions and later showed concurrent completion records:

  1. Same over different: Completions at the starting institution were selected over completions atother institutions.
  2. Four-year over two-year: If the first decision rule did not result in the selection of a single completion record, then completions at four-year institutions were selected over those at two-year institutions.5
  3. Random selection: If neither of the first two decision rules resulted in the selection of a single completion record, then a completion record was selected at random.

5 In theory, this decision rule might lead to underestimating the number of two-year completers who were shown to subsequently receive a  four-year degree, but in reality, the rule did not affect the outcomes of any student.

IMPUTATION OF MISSING DATA

The National Student Clearinghouse collects graduation information from its participating institutions via two data reporting services: Enrollment Reporting and DegreeVerify. Enrollment Reporting has higher data coverage rates, but includes only basic completion information such as graduation indicator and the date of graduation. For the fall 2006 cohort, Enrollment Reporting covered 89 percent of all the students in Title IV degree-granting institutions listed in IPEDS (including 93 percent of the students in public institutions, 87 percent in private nonprofits, and 53 percent in private for-profits). DegreeVerify includes enhanced information on completions, including degree title, major, level, and CIP code, but covered fewer enrollments in 2006, by about 10 percentage points. Institutions may participate either in Enrollment Reporting alone, or in both services. Completions data for this report included information drawn from either service. An analysis conducted by the Clearinghouse on the 2006 cohort found that graduation data for the institutions that participated in DegreeVerify were relatively more complete for some of the years covered in this study than those for institutions that participated only in Enrollment Reporting, biasing completion rates slightly downwards for institutional sectors with lower participation rates in DegreeVerify.

In order to correct for this bias, the Research Center conducted a randomized imputation procedure for missing graduation data among students at non-DegreeVerify institutions who were no longer enrolled, but for whom outcome data were missing (that is, for whom the institution had reported neither a graduation nor a withdrawal status in their Enrollment Reporting). This involved comparing the Enrollment Reporting and DegreeVerify records for institutions that participated in both services and estimating, for each institution type, the average percentage of students with missing outcomes in the enrollment data who had a reported graduation in the DegreeVerify data. We further specified these underreporting rates by taking into account student age and the academic year. We then used random assignment of graduation outcomes to students with missing data at the institutions that did not participate in DegreeVerify in order to match each institution’s underreporting rate for each student age group and for every year of the study to the average rate for similar students at institutions of the same type that did participate in DegreeVerify.

This imputation was performed only for students with missing outcomes data at institutions that did not participate in DegreeVerify. It is based on the typical underreporting of graduation outcomes from similar institutions that participate in both Enrollment Reporting and DegreeVerify. The table below shows, for each institution type, the percentage of the starting cohort for whom graduation data were imputed:

Institution Type Percentage of the Starting Cohort With an Imputed Completion
Two-Year Private For-Profit 0.23%
Two-Year Private Nonprofit 0.69%
Two-Year Public 0.72%
Four-Year Private For-Profit 0.21%
Four-Year Private Nonprofit 1.62%
Four-Year Public 0.59%
Total 0.81%

WEIGHTING

The institutions participating in the Clearinghouse Enrollment Reporting service (i.e., providing the data coverage) is not 100 percent of all institutions for any individual year. Therefore, in order to account for possibilities of not capturing a student’s enrollment outcome due to noncoverage of Clearinghouse data, the analysis weights were calculated using 2011 coverage rate of the sector, control, and state of the institution where a student was enrolled for the last enrollment record. Last enrollment record was defined based on the first completion (for completers) or the last enrollment record either before stop-out (for students who had no enrollment records during the last year of the study) or before the end of the study period (for persisters). For students who completed a degree at the starting institution or were still enrolled at the starting institution by the end of the study period, a weight=1 was applied. For all other students, two weights were created and applied in this study:

For students who completed a degree or were still enrolled at a different institution by the end of the study period, a “transfer” weight was applied. The transfer weight used was an over-weight based on the coverage of the sector, control, and state of the institution at which the student was enrolled for the last enrollment record, as calculated by the formula provided below:

WP-Sig5-Eq1

For students who stopped out by the end of the study period, a “missing” weight was applied. The missing weight used was an under-weight based on the coverage of the sector, control, and state of the institution at which the student was enrolled for the last enrollment record, as calculated by the formula provided below:

WP-Sig5-Eq2

DATA LIMITATIONS

The data limitations in this report center mainly on the data coverage, the methods used for cohort identification, and the definition of key constructs, as outlined above.

The representation of private for-profit institutions in the StudentTracker data is lower than that of other institution types, with 65 percent coverage for private for-profit four-year institutions in fall 2006 compared to 87 percent and 95 percent respectively for private nonprofit four-year institutions and public four-year institutions. Despite the challenges presented by low participation in the early years covered in this report, current Clearinghouse data nevertheless offer near-census national coverage, representing 94 percent of U.S. postsecondary enrollments. In an effort to correct for coverage gaps, in this study, data were weighted, as explained above.

Data limitations resulting from the cohort identification methods used in preparing this report also should be noted. Because the Clearinghouse data on designations for class year are incomplete, the researchers identified first-time undergraduate students via two indirect measures:

  • No previous college enrollments recorded in StudentTracker going back four years, and
  • No previous degree awarded in the Clearinghouse’s historical DegreeVerify database.

Given these selection criteria, the sample for this report may include students who had more than 30 Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or dual enrollment credits and who would not be considered first-time students despite having first-time status. Moreover, because of inconsistencies in the historical depth of DegreeVerify database records, it is possible that a small number of graduate students are also included in the study cohort.

Finally, data on most demographic variables in Clearinghouse data are not complete. Consequently, the results summarized in this report do not break out enrollments by race, ethnicity, or gender.


Appendix B: Coverage Tables


Table B1. National Student Clearinghouse Coverage of Enrollments by Institution Type Across States (Title IV, Degree-Granting Nonmultistate Institutions, 2011 Fall)*
State Four-Year Public Two-Year Public Four-Year Private Nonprofit Two-Year Private Nonprofit Four-Year Private For-Profit Two-Year Private For-Profit
Alabama 100.00% 90.77% 90.60% 0.00% 0.00%
Alaska 100.00% 65.55% 100.00% 0.00%
Arizona 100.00% 88.98% 67.55% 95.40% 0.00%
Arkansas 96.98% 93.29% 79.55%
California 100.00% 99.45% 92.57% 0.00% 55.20% 37.56%
Colorado 97.26% 100.00% 96.40% 0.00% 16.02% 0.00%
Connecticut 98.55% 100.00% 89.71% 100.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Delaware 100.00% 100.00% 91.30% 100.00%
District of Columbia 100.00% 99.34%
Florida 99.66% 95.52% 82.32% 0.00% 48.90% 21.01%
Georgia 100.00% 98.96% 93.96% 52.80% 0.00% 0.00%
Hawaii 100.00% 100.00% 40.19% 0.00%
Idaho 100.00% 100.00% 93.20%
Illinois 100.00% 100.00% 96.67% 0.00% 53.92% 0.00%
Indiana 100.00% 100.00% 93.54% 100.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Iowa 100.00% 100.00% 98.58% 0.00% 99.53%
Kansas 99.05% 86.73% 66.21% 0.00% 0.00%
Kentucky 100.00% 100.00% 86.69% 77.31% 54.85%
Louisiana 97.82% 64.62% 99.07% 10.22%
Maine 100.00% 96.70% 99.48% 0.00% 0.00%
Maryland 97.24% 100.00% 92.92% 0.00%
Massachusetts 99.03% 100.00% 97.66% 25.69% 31.61% 0.00%
Michigan 100.00% 95.12% 96.52%
Minnesota 100.00% 99.83% 96.30% 0.00% 97.47% 50.67%
Mississippi 100.00% 95.75% 92.33% 0.00%
Missouri 100.00% 100.00% 91.74% 24.98% 0.00% 18.95%
Montana 100.00% 82.89% 74.71% 0.00%
Nebraska 100.00% 99.64% 98.11% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Nevada 100.00% 100.00% 53.00% 44.33%
New Hampshire 100.00% 100.00% 96.60% 0.00% 100.00%
New Jersey 100.00% 100.00% 90.13% 100.00% 0.00%
New Mexico 93.30% 94.59% 44.11% 100.00%
New York 98.58% 100.00% 96.00% 8.14% 83.74% 26.51%
North Carolina 100.00% 99.83% 89.50% 100.00% 54.53% 0.00%
North Dakota 99.25% 93.80% 82.80% 0.00%
Ohio 100.00% 100.00% 95.84% 19.55% 100.00% 5.01%
Oklahoma 96.72% 96.75% 84.21% 100.00% 0.00%
Oregon 100.00% 100.00% 91.99% 0.00% 0.00%
Pennsylvania 100.00% 100.00% 98.43% 66.83% 6.46% 18.94%
Rhode Island 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
South Carolina 100.00% 98.99% 88.46% 84.67% 100.00% 0.00%
South Dakota 95.20% 95.95% 70.03% 100.00%
Tennessee 100.00% 100.00% 78.61% 0.00% 31.65% 0.00%
Texas 100.00% 94.11% 96.87% 0.00% 0.00% 2.11%
Utah 100.00% 85.05% 100.00% 100.00% 31.00% 0.00%
Vermont 100.00% 100.00% 97.93% 100.00% 0.00%
Virginia 100.00% 100.00% 95.45% 80.43% 36.03%
Washington 99.63% 100.00% 94.05% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
West Virginia 98.92% 82.84% 93.88% 0.00% 0.00%
Wisconsin 100.00% 100.00% 94.48% 100.00% 0.00%
Wyoming 100.00% 100.00%


*The analysis weights were calculated using these coverage rates.


Table B2. NSC Coverage of Enrollment by Institution Type (Title IV Degree-Granting Multistate Institutions)
Institution Type Coverage Rate
Four-Year Public
Two-Year Public
Four-Year Private Nonprofit 95.06%
Two-Year Private Nonprofit
Four-Year Private For-Profit 70.69%
Two-Year Private For-Profit 24.94%

Appendix C: Results Tables


Table 1. Fall 2006 Cohort (n=1,878,484) by Type of Starting Institution
Institution Type Unweighted Count Percentage
Four-Year Public 830,056 44.19%
Four-Year Private Nonprofit 359,145 19.12%
Four-Year Private For-Profit 52,611 2.8%
Two-Year Public 631,524 33.62%
Two-Year Private Nonprofit 3,527 0.19%
Two-Year Private For-Profit 1,621 0.09%


Data from this table are displayed in the report in A Note on the Data in Figure A. Fall 2006 Cohort by Type of Starting Institution.


Table 2. Fall 2006 Cohort by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Unweighted Count Percentage
24 or Younger 1,534,514 81.69%
Over 24 327,487 17.43%
Birthdate Missing* 16,483 0.88%
Total 1,878,484 100.00%


*Students with birthdate missing are excluded from all subsequent tables that break out results by age. Data from this table are displayed in the report in A Note on the Data in Figure B. Fall 2006 Cohort by Age at First Entry.


Table 3. Fall 2006 Cohort by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Unweighted Count Percentage
Exclusively Full-Time 780,050 41.53%
Exclusively Part-Time 134,762 7.17%
Mixed Enrollment 963,672 51.30%
Total 1,878,484 100.00%


Data from this table are displayed in the report in A Note on the Data in Figure C. Fall 2006 Cohort by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 4. Fall 2006 Cohort by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Unweighted Count Percentage of Age Group
24 or Younger Overall 1,534,514 100.00%
Exclusively Full-Time 685,248 44.66%
Exclusively Part-Time 49,740 3.24%
Mixed Enrollment 799,526 52.10%
Over 24 Overall 327,487 100.00%
Exclusively Full-Time 88,844 27.13%
Exclusively Part-Time 81,970 25.03%
Mixed Enrollment 156,673 47.84%


Data from this table are displayed in the report in A Note on the Data in Figure D. Fall 2006 Cohort by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity .


Table 5a. Six-Year Outcomes by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Overall 54.06% 41.97% 12.09% 16.14% 29.79%
Exclusively Full-Time 76.23% 65.64% 10.59% 3.75% 20.02%
Exclusively Part-Time 20.58% 17.47% 3.11% 11.40% 68.02%
Mixed Enrollment 40.79% 26.25% 14.55% 26.81% 32.40%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 1. Six-Year Outcomes by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 5b. Completion at Starting vs. Different Institution by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Proportion of Completions
At Starting Institution At Different Institution
Overall 77.64% 22.36%
Exclusively Full-Time 86.11% 13.89%
Exclusively Part-Time 84.89% 15.11%
Mixed Enrollment 64.34% 35.66%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 2. Completion at Starting vs. Different Institution by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 6a. Six-Year Outcomes by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
24 or Younger 56.78% 43.35% 13.42% 16.86% 26.36%
Over 24 42.10% 35.86% 6.24% 13.50% 44.40%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 3. Six-Year Outcomes by Age at First Entry.


Table 6b. Completion at Starting vs. Different Institution by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Proportion of Completions
At Starting Institution At Different Institution
24 or Younger 76.36% 23.64%
Over 24 85.18% 14.82%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 4. Completion at Starting vs. Different Institution by Age at First Entry.


Table 7. Six-Year Outcomes by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
24 or Younger Exclusively Full-Time 78.47% 67.00% 11.46% 3.77% 17.76%
Exclusively Part-Time 9.66% 7.04% 2.62% 12.92% 77.42%
Mixed Enrollment 41.10% 25.34% 15.76% 28.30% 30.60%
Over 24 Exclusively Full-Time 60.09% 55.91% 4.18% 3.82% 36.10%
Exclusively Part-Time 27.49% 24.04% 3.45% 10.83% 61.68%
Mixed Enrollment 39.68% 30.85% 8.84% 20.30% 40.02%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 5. Six-Year Outcomes by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity.


Table 8a. Six-Year Outcomes by Starting Institution Type
Starting Institution Type Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
Overall 54.06% 41.97% 9.14% 2.95% 16.14% 29.79%
Four-Year Public 60.57% 48.65% 8.73% 3.20% 16.01% 23.42%
Four-Year Private Nonprofit 71.53% 58.60% 10.53% 2.40% 9.95% 18.52%
Four-Year Private For-Profit 42.81% 37.83% 3.03% 1.95% 13.84% 43.35%
Two-Year Public 36.29% 23.90% 9.38% 3.02% 20.07% 43.64%
Two-Year Private Nonprofit 54.24% 42.59% 8.62% 3.03% 13.50% 32.26%
Two-Year Private For-Profit 61.79% 58.12% 2.43% 1.24% 8.37% 29.84%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 6. Six-Year Outcomes by Starting Institution Type.


Table 8b. Completion at Starting Institution vs. Different Institution by Starting Institution Type
Starting Institution Type Proportion of Completions
At Starting Institution At Different Institution
Four-Year Public 80.31% 19.69%
Four-Year Private Nonprofit 81.92% 18.08%
Four-Year Private For-Profit 88.37% 11.63%
Two-Year Public 65.85% 34.15%
Two-Year Private Nonprofit 78.52% 21.48%
Two-Year Private For-Profit 94.06% 5.94%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 7. Completion at Starting vs. Different Institution by Starting Institution Type.


Table 9. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Public Institutions by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
Overall 60.57% 48.65% 8.73% 3.20% 16.01% 23.42%
Exclusively Full-Time 80.97% 70.96% 8.02% 2.00% 4.18% 14.85%
Exclusively Part-Time 18.95% 15.53% 1.45% 1.97% 11.24% 69.81%
Mixed Enrollment 46.83% 32.08% 10.28% 4.47% 27.58% 25.59%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 8. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Public Institutions by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 10. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
24 or Younger 63.02% 50.17% 9.44% 3.41% 16.47% 20.51%
Over 24 44.53% 38.73% 4.08% 1.73% 13.81% 41.66%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 9. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry.


Table 11. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
24 or Younger Exclusively Full-Time 81.96% 71.49% 8.45% 2.08% 4.11% 13.93%
Exclusively Part-Time 8.32% 4.89% 0.87% 2.87% 12.34% 79.34%
Mixed Enrollment 47.00% 31.44% 10.83% 4.73% 28.68% 24.32%
Over 24 Exclusively Full-Time 69.22% 65.33% 3.15% 0.74% 5.82% 24.96%
Exclusively Part-Time 24.50% 21.11% 1.77% 1.62% 11.17% 64.33%
Mixed Enrollment 46.70% 37.98% 6.37% 2.35% 20.16% 33.14%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 10. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity.


Table 12. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate First Completion at Starting Institution First Completion at Different Institution Subsequent Completion at a Four-Year Institution Total Four-Year Completion Rate Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Two-Year Four-Year
Overall 36.29% 23.90% 3.02% 9.38% 5.61% 14.99% 20.07% 43.64%
Exclusively Full-Time 52.55% 38.18% 2.69% 11.68% 13.50% 25.18% 4.13% 43.32%
Exclusively Part-Time 18.39% 16.18% 1.53% 0.68% 1.33% 2.01% 12.16% 69.44%
Mixed Enrollment 33.24% 20.03% 3.35% 9.86% 3.48% 13.34% 26.84% 39.91%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 11. Six-Year Outcomes and First Completion for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Enrollment Intensity and in Figure 12. Completion Outcomes at Four-Year Institutions for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 13. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Total Completion Rate First Completion at Starting Institution First Completion at Different Institution Subsequent Completion at a Four-Year Institution Total Four-Year Completion Rate Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Two-Year Four-Year
24 or Younger 36.47% 22.39% 3.20% 10.88% 6.22% 17.10% 21.87% 41.66%
Over 24 35.75% 28.80% 2.46% 4.49% 3.35% 7.85% 14.63% 49.62


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 13. Six-Year Outcomes and First Completion for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry and in Figure 14. Completion at Four-Year Institutions for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry.


Table 14. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate First Completion at Starting Institution First Completion at Different Institution Subsequent Completion at a Four-Year Institution Total Four-Year Completion Rate Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Two-Year Four-Year
24 or Younger Exclusively Full-Time 54.46% 37.48% 3.04% 13.94% 15.39% 29.33% 4.59% 40.95%
Exclusively Part-Time 10.00% 8.19% 1.40% 0.41% 0.74% 1.14% 13.50% 76.50%
Mixed Enrollment 32.74% 18.53% 3.42% 10.79% 3.58% 14.37% 28.54% 38.72%
Over 24 Exclusively Full-Time 45.51% 40.44% 1.45% 3.63% 5.78% 9.41% 2.62% 51.87%
Exclusively Part-Time 26.90% 24.27% 1.67% 0.97% 1.94% 2.91% 11.10% 62.00%
Mixed Enrollment 35.57% 26.17% 3.17% 6.24% 2.99% 9.23% 20.64% 43.78%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 15. Six-Year Outcomes and First Completion for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity and in Figure 16. Completion at Four-Year Institutions for Students Who Started at Two-Year Public Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity.


Table 15. Six-Year Outcomes for Non-Degree-Seeking Students Who Began at Two-Year Public Institutions (n=385,503) by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate First Completion at Starting Institution First Completion at Different Institution Subsequent Completion at a Four-Year Total Four-Year Completion Rate Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Two-Year Four-Year
Overall 21.52% 7.61% 2.65% 11.26% 1.11% 12.37% 25.45% 53.03%
Exclusively Part-Time 8.62% 6.63% 1.30% 0.68% 0.54% 1.22% 11.62% 79.77%
Mixed Enrollment 31.19% 8.34% 3.66% 19.19% 1.54% 20.73% 35.83% 32.98%


Note: By definition, non-degree-seeking students could not include students enrolled exclusively full time because any student enrolled full time for at least one term in the first year was classified as degree-seeking in this study. Note that completion rates for mixed enrollment non-degree-seeking students were very similar to those for mixed enrollment degree-seeking students, suggesting that non-degree seeking students who start part time and later enroll full time become similar to degree-seeking students in terms of their outcomes.


Table 16. Six-Year Outcomes for Non-Degree-Seeking Students Who Began at Two-Year Public Institutions (n=385,503) by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Total Completion Rate First Completion at Starting Institution First Completion at Different Institution Subsequent Completion at a Four-Year Total Four-Year Completion Rate Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Two-Year Four-Year
24 or Younger 26.47% 7.17% 3.09% 16.21% 1.44% 17.65% 29.98% 43.55%
Over 24 13.04% 8.49% 1.91% 2.64% 0.54% 3.18% 17.86% 69.09%

 


Table 17. Six-Year Outcomes for Non-Degree-Seeking Students Who Began at Two-Year Public Institutions (n=385,503) by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate First Completion at Starting Institution First Completion at Different Institution Subsequent Completion at a Four-Year Total Four-Year Completion Rate Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Two-Year Four-Year
24 or Younger Exclusively Part-Time 6.65% 4.67% 1.54% 0.45% 0.65% 1.10% 11.86% 81.48%
Mixed Enrollment 34.16% 8.14% 3.69% 22.33% 1.74% 24.07% 37.00% 28.84%
Over 24 Exclusively Part-Time 10.20% 8.17% 1.16% 0.86% 0.47% 1.33% 11.79% 78.01%
Mixed Enrollment 19.33% 9.20% 3.57% 6.56% 0.69% 7.25% 31.27% 49.40%

 


Table 18. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
Overall 71.53% 58.60% 10.53% 2.40% 9.95% 18.52%
Exclusively Full-Time 85.19% 75.28% 8.66% 1.26% 2.82% 11.98%
Exclusively Part-Time 32.01% 26.46% 1.88% 3.67% 9.17% 58.82%
Mixed Enrollment 50.05% 30.02% 15.55% 4.48% 24.29% 25.65%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 17. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 19. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
24 or Younger 74.63% 60.64% 11.57% 2.42% 9.90% 15.47%
Over 24 52.75% 46.26% 4.19% 2.30% 10.54% 36.71%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 18. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions by Age at First Entry.


Table 20. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
24 or Younger Exclusively Full-Time 86.24% 76.01% 8.96% 1.27% 2.77% 10.99%
Exclusively Part-Time 14.03% 8.00% 1.57% 4.47% 8.91% 77.05%
Mixed Enrollment 49.71% 27.07% 17.66% 4.97% 26.01% 24.28%
Over 24 Exclusively Full-Time 70.87% 65.22% 4.47% 1.18% 3.75% 25.38%
Exclusively Part-Time 35.06% 29.47% 1.97% 3.61% 9.46% 55.48%
Mixed Enrollment 52.15% 44.35% 5.62% 2.18% 16.42% 31.43%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 19. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private Nonprofit Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity.


Table 21. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private For-Profit Institutions by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
Overall 42.81% 37.83% 3.03% 1.95% 13.84% 43.35%
Exclusively Full-Time 61.29% 58.67% 1.53% 1.09% 3.62% 35.09%
Exclusively Part-Time 27.64% 24.60% 1.65% 1.39% 11.04% 61.32%
Mixed Enrollment 25.17% 17.33% 4.88% 2.96% 25.34% 49.49%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 20. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private For-Profit Institutions by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 22. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private For-Profit Institutions by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
24 or Younger 36.05% 29.17% 4.01% 2.87% 18.76% 45.19%
Over 24 44.71% 40.25% 2.76% 1.69% 12.49% 42.80%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 21. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private For-Profit Institutions by Age at First Entry.


Table 23. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private For-Profit Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution Still Enrolled (at Any Institution) Not Enrolled (at Any Institution)
Four-Year Two-Year
24 or Younger Exclusively Full-Time 53.52% 48.29% 3.62% 1.61% 4.79% 41.69%
Exclusively Part-Time 13.63% 9.96% 1.03% 2.64% 10.83% 75.54%
Mixed Enrollment 25.74% 17.53% 4.48% 3.73% 28.74% 45.52%
Over 24 Exclusively Full-Time 62.97% 60.90% 1.09% 0.98% 3.38% 33.66%
Exclusively Part-Time 29.64% 26.67% 1.74% 1.22% 11.11% 59.26%
Mixed Enrollment 24.93% 17.24% 5.03% 2.66% 24.04% 51.03%


Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 22. Six-Year Outcomes for Students Who Started at Four-Year Private For-Profit Institutions by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity.


Table 24. Completion Rates Across State Lines by Enrollment Intensity
Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Same Institution Completion at Different Institution
In-State Out-of-State Multistate
Overall 54.27% 42.05% 8.25% 3.53% 0.44%
Exclusively Full-Time 76.61% 65.82% 6.81% 3.72% 0.26%
Exclusively Part-Time 20.42% 17.42% 1.70% 1.11% 0.19%
Mixed Enrollment 41.15% 26.51% 10.31% 3.71% 0.62%


Note: Students who started at a multistate institution were excluded from the rates presented in this table.
Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 23. Completions at Different Institutions Across State Lines by Enrollment Intensity.


Table 25. Completion Rates Across State Lines by Age at First Entry
Age at First Entry Total Completion Rate Completion at Same Institution Completion at Different Institution
In-State Out-of-State Multistate
24 or Younger 56.84% 43.39% 9.13% 3.90% 0.42%
Over 24 41.74% 35.45% 3.94% 1.75% 0.59%


Note: Students who started at a multistate institution were excluded from the rates presented in this table.
Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 24. Completions at Different Institutions Across State Lines by Age at First Entry.


Table 26. Completion Rates Across State Lines by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Same Institution Completion at Different Institution
In-State Out-of-State Multistate
24 or Younger Exclusively Full-Time 78.55% 67.06% 7.23% 4.01% 0.26%
Exclusively Part-Time 9.65% 7.06% 1.57% 0.67% 0.34%
Mixed Enrollment 41.22% 25.43% 11.23% 4.01% 0.56%
Over 24 Exclusively Full-Time 59.20% 54.73% 3.02% 1.13% 0.31%
Exclusively Part-Time 27.43% 24.12% 1.81% 1.40% 0.10%
Mixed Enrollment 41.33% 32.51% 5.57% 2.25% 1.00%


Note: Students who started at a multistate institution were excluded from the rates presented in this table.
Data from this appendix table are displayed in the report in Figure 25. Completions at Different Institutions Across State Lines by Age at First Entry and Enrollment Intensity.


Table 27. Completion Rates by Enrollment Intensity for Students Who Started at Multistate Institutions
Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution
Overall 46.65% 39.30% 7.35%
Exclusively Full-Time 65.81% 60.84% 4.96%
Exclusively Part-Time 27.08% 19.35% 7.73%
Mixed Enrollment 25.01% 14.66% 10.35%

 


Table 28. Completion Rates by Age at First Entry for Students Who Started at Multistate Institutions
Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution
24 or Younger 50.61% 39.85% 10.75%
Over 24 44.95% 39.10% 5.84%

 


Table 29. Completion Rates by Enrollment Intensity and Age at First Entry for Students Who Started at Multistate Institutions
Age at First Entry Enrollment Intensity Total Completion Rate Completion at Starting Institution Completion at Different Institution
24 or Younger Exclusively Full-Time 71.78% 62.71% 9.07%
Exclusively Part-Time 10.45% 4.17% 6.28%
Mixed Enrollment 28.08% 15.11% 12.97%
Over 24 Exclusively Full-Time 63.24% 60.08% 3.16%
Exclusively Part-Time 29.54% 21.62% 7.92%
Mixed Enrollment 23.46% 14.43% 9.03%

 


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