Undergraduate Degree Earners 

Academic Year 2021-22

March 16, 2023

Undergraduate credential completions fell for the first time in a decade, down by 1.6 percent or 58,800 completers from the previous year.

This decline was caused by an unprecedented drop in first-time graduates (-1.9% or -50,700). Among first-time graduates, associate degree earners fell more than baccalaureates (-7.6% or -56,800 and -2.4% or -36,000, respectively). On the other hand, nine percent (42,200) more people have earned a certificate since last year.

Bachelor’s degree completers with a prior associate degree also declined 2.5 percent (-11,600). This comes after having grown steadily over the past eight years. This decline caused the non-first-time graduate numbers to decline for the first time in a decade (-0.8% or -8,100).

The Undergraduate Degree Earners report series, published annually, provides demographic and educational profiles for all students graduating with a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. In the current report, we profile graduates in the 2021-22 academic year, with a focus on first-time versus non-first-time graduates, and changes in demographics and education credentials received over the last ten academic years, since 2012-13. The Appendix provides state-level and regional trends, in addition to the national graduate profiles by age and award type.


  • Undergraduate credential earners fell for the first time in a decade (-1.6% or -58,800 from a year earlier).
  • This decline was caused by an unprecedented one-year loss of 50,700 first-time graduates (-1.9% over the previous year).
  • Among first-time graduates, associate degree completions fell sharply (-7.6% or -56,800), followed by baccalaureate recipients (-2.4% or -36,000). First-time bachelor’s degree earners fell for the first time in a decade. In contrast, first-time certificate completers grew considerably (+9.0% or +42,200).
  • Declines are particularly steep among first-time graduates 25 years and older (-4.1% or -30,600). Declines are smaller among graduates 24 years and younger (-1.0% or -19,100).
  • Baccalaureate earners who had a prior associate degree decreased this year against the historical trend, down by 2.5 percent (-11,600). It has caused the overall non-first-time graduate numbers to slide for the first time in a decade (-0.8% or -8,100).

2021-22 Graduate Profile (N = 3.6M)

Overall Undergraduate Credential Earners

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