The EAB Daily Briefing

Persistence rates rise, especially for some nontraditional students

The figures suggest that students and institutions are recovering from the recession

May 11, 2016

College persistence rates have increased for three consecutive years, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRS).  

The persistence rate measures the percentage of students who return to college at any institution for their second year, while the retention rate measures the percentage of students who return to the same institution.

The report found that among all students who began college in fall 2014, 72.1% persisted at any U.S. institution in 2015, while 60.6% returned to the institution where they began. The overall persistence rate for students beginning college in fall 2014 rose 2.1 percentage points since hitting a low in fall 2010, while that rate has increased 2.9 percentage points for part-time students during the same period.

Students ages 21- to 24-years-old at the time of college entry have made the largest gains, with a persistence rate of 54.9% and gain of 3.7 percentage points compared with the fall 2009 cohort. Students ages 20 and under had a persistence rate of 78.1%, but a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from the cohort of students entering college in fall 2009. About 14% of these students enrolled at a different institution their second year of college. Students older than age 24 at the time of college entry had a persistence rate of 50.5%.

For students entering college at four-year public institutions, the persistence rate reached 82.3%, up 0.1 percentage points from the year before, and up 0.5 percentage points compared with the group of students entering college in fall 2009. Among these students, 70.2% returned to the same institution in fall 2015.

Meanwhile, the persistence rate for students entering college at four-year private non-profit institutions  was 86.7%, down 0.5 percentage points from the year before and down 0.6 percentage points compared with the group of students entering college in fall 2009.

The persistence rate also decreased for students beginning college at four-year for-profit institutions, down 3.9 percentage points from the year before to 49.3%. Among all students in this group who began college in fall 2014, 44.2% returned to the same institution.

The persistence rate at two-year public institutions reached a six-year high at 60%, up 0.2 percentage points from the year before and compared with the fall 2009 cohort. Among all students entering college in this group in fall 2014, 48.5% returned to the same institution.

According to NSCRS Executive Director Doug Shapiro, the fact that persistence and retention rates have surpassed that of students entering college in fall 2009 suggests that students and institutions are recovering from the recession (Arnett, Education Dive, 5/9; National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 5/3).