Report Attempts to More Accurately Count College Completion Rates

. November 30, 2012

A criticism of college completion rates is that they capture only full-time students who start and finish at the same institution, thus not accounting for part-time or transfer students. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently released a report that seeks to more fully measure completion rates.

The report found that, when nontraditional enrollment patterns (e.g., part-time and transfer students) are taken into account, the national college completion rate increases, from 42% to 54%. The data show that more than one-fifth of the students who (1) complete college do so in a nontraditional manner and (2) are counted under traditional measures as not completing college actually do complete.

Additionally, the report found that most students who earn a four-year degree after starting at a two-year institution do so without earning a degree at the two-year institution. According to the report, 15% of students who started at a two-year institution earned a four-year degree within six years, but two-thirds of these students did not earn a two-year degree.

However, the report also showed that part-time students struggle to complete college; at least two-thirds of part-time students dropped out without earning a degree.