College Completion Rates Holding Steady, Not Increasing

college completion ratesThis week, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a report on college completion rates.  In the study, they followed 2.3 million students who began college in 2007 over a six year period.  Click here to see the report.

To wrap additional context around the research, from 1970-2009, undergraduate enrollments more than doubled, yet completion rates remain unchanged.  So, while increasing numbers of students have access to college, not enough of them are crossing the finish line with a degree or certificate.  Complicating matters are the large numbers of students who arrive at college unprepared to do college-level work (75% of students are not ready).  Add to that budget cuts and increased pressure to prove the value of a college degree, and institutions are scrambling to raise their completion rates.

Donald Hossler, former director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center had this to say:

“If colleges want to get serious about raising their completion rates, the growing number of disadvantaged students will need the kind of mandatory tutoring and intensive advising Division I athletes get.”

To learn more about the impact of online tutoring on retention and persistence rates, visit us at


  • 54% of students who enrolled in college for the first time in 2007 completed their degree program within 6 years
    • This rate climbs to 56% if we include dual-enrolled students (high school students who take college-credit courses)
    • Less than half of students go to college full-time.
      • 41% are exclusively full-time
      • 6% are exclusively part-time
      • 52% are mixed enrollment (meaning some terms they were full-time, others part-time)
      • Few part-time students reach the college completion finish line.
        • Only 21.9% complete a degree within 6 years
        • Only 11% are still enrolled during final year of 6 year study period
        • 67.1% not enrolled at all within 6 year time period
        • Nearly one in four students who completed a degree or certificate (23.4%) did so at an institution other than where they first enrolled.
        • Completion rates based on type of institution where students started:
          • Two-year public: 39.9%
          • Four-year public: 63.5%
          • Four-year private nonprofit: 72.8% (most likely to graduate)
          • Four-year private for-profit: 42.4%
          • Two-year private nonprofit: 52.7%
          • Two-year private for-profit: 62.4%
          • The age when students enter college has a big impact on completion rates.
            • Traditional (under age 20): 59.7% completion rate
            • Adult Learners (over age 24): 43.5%
            • Delayed Entry (between 20-24): 40.8%
            • Bottom line: Students fresh from high school completed at a much higher rate than both adult learners and delayed entry students.
            • Women slightly outperformed men.
              • Women’s completion rates: 59.5%
              • Men’s completion rates: 52.8%


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