Research

Overall 4- and 6-Year Grad Rates Tick Up

The yearly success rate for first-time, full-time students initially enrolled in 2012 across all institutional sectors.

The yearly success rate for first-time, full-time students initially enrolled in 2012 across all institutional sectors. Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

The latest reporting from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows a graduation rate of 44 percent by the end of year four (up from 42 percent for the previous cohort) and 64 percent by year six (up from 63 percent) for first-time, full-time students who entered college in the fall of 2012. For the same cohort, 23 percent of students were no longer enrolled by the end of year four and 27 percent were no longer in college by year six.

Student success was highest for four-year private nonprofits, where graduation rates reached 61 percent at the end of year four; it was lowest in private for-profits, where completion was 33 percent. At four-year publics, by the end of year four 42 percent of students had finished their postsecondary credentials.

Part-time students didn't fare nearly as well across all types of institutions. The overall success rate by the end of year four was 20 percent. In four-year publics it was 21 percent; in private nonprofits, it was 30 percent; and in for-profits, it was 22 percent.

Two-year schools proved a mixed bag. By the end of year two across all types of two-year institutions, the graduation rate for full-timers was 12 percent, including those students who transferred to other institutions and graduated. That rose to 24 percent by the end of year three and 32 percent at the end of year four. For part-timers, the success rate by the end of year four was 19 percent.

Two dozen states exceeded the 80 percent success rate for six-year graduations among full-time students in private nonprofits. The leader: Rhode Island, where 89 percent of students graduated in six years, followed by the District of Columbia (87 percent).

The states with the highest reported four-year public graduation rates within six years were Iowa (83 percent), Virginia and New Hampshire (both with 81 percent), Maryland (80.5 percent) and Vermont (80 percent). For part-timers in four-year public institutions, New Jersey had a completion rate of 53 percent within six years and Virginia had a completion rate of 51 percent over that same period.

The Dakotas led for two-year schools. In North Dakota, 61 percent of students had succeeded in earning their associate degree within three years, and for South Dakota 49 percent of students had done the same.

The full report tracks not just full attainment of a degree, but also transfer, persistence, stop-out (those who withdraw from college then re-enroll later) and completion rates, nationally and state-by-state.

It should be noted that the "snapshot report" includes (but doesn't do a breakout of) postsecondary certificates in graduation counts for four-year and two-year institutions. According to the researchers, the inclusion of certificates increased six-year graduation rates by 1.6 percent at four-year publics, 0.6 percent at four-year private nonprofits and 4.9 percent at four-year for-profits.

The reports for yearly success and progress rates are openly available on the Research Center's website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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