Good news for college completion

Increased completion spans full- and part-time students at two- and four-year institutions

College completion rates are on the rise following a two-year slump, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC). 

According to the report, the Great Recession spurred surges in enrollment, followed by drops in completion rates for students entering higher education in 2008 and 2009.

The overall six-year completion rate for students who first enrolled in 2010 was 54.8%, up 1.9 percentage points from the cohort entering college in 2009. Completion rates among students who first enrolled in 2010 led to 55,000 more graduates after six years than the previous one. That includes students who enrolled full-time and part-time at both two-year and four-year institutions.

While completion is on the uptick, that figure is still lower than the 56.1% rate for students who first enrolled in 2007.

Want to boost completion rates? You already have the resources you need on campus

"Dramatic increases in enrollments appear to have leveled off and completion rates are recovering some ground," the report states. "For two-year institutions that could point to overcrowded classrooms to help explain lower completion rates in the previous years, the higher rates for this year's smaller cohort were perhaps to be expected. For four-year public and nonprofit institutions, however, the rebounding completions rates accomplished with continuing increases in enrollment are a surprising result."

"We can expect this nationwide recovery in college completion rates to continue in upcoming years," NSCRC Executive Director Doug Shapiro said in a statement. "But the rising tide of outcomes should not lull institutions into complacency. There is still ample room for improvements and campuses should look carefully at their results for specific student populations to find them" (NSCRC press release, 12/5; Fain, Inside Higher Ed, 12/5; Marcus, Hechinger Report, 12/5). 

Nudging is key to completion

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