The Murky Middle Project

Take a closer look at five insights from our exploration of the "Murky Middle" student population.

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More than half of students who drop out of college do so in their second year or later, even after ending their first year with GPAs between 2.0 and 3.0. These students represent a "Murky Middle" where graduation outcomes are difficult to project.

Download the white paper to learn more about the risk indicators to help you identify students in the Murky Middle.

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Late-stage dropouts account for more than half of student attrition

While the first year is the single biggest year for attrition, over half of all student departure occurs in subsequent years. However, little is known about students who leave college in their second year or later, or what can be done to better support them through to graduation.

Before we can begin to develop effective intervention strategies targeting these students, we need to first develop a better understanding of who might be at elevated risk of a late-stage dropout (defined as dropout in the second year or later).

What is the Murky Middle?

Unsurprisingly, early academic performance is a reliable indicator of ultimate graduation outcome. What is surprising is that the vast majority of late-stage dropouts were in good academic standing with a GPA between 2.0 and 3.0 when they returned for a second year. But just over half of the students in this range ultimately graduated; nearly one-third dropped out in the second year or later.

Because of their inherent ambiguity in graduation outcome, we’ve come to refer to the entire population of mid-range GPA students as "The Murky Middle."

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