Latest college completion rate holding steady at 62.3%

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The national university’s six-year completion rate is 62.3%, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC). The reporting time period covers students who entered college for the first time in 2016 and completed a degree in June 2022. The rate is basically the same as the 62.2% completion rate reported for the cohort of students who started university in 2015.

NSCRC completion rates represent all students entering postsecondary education for the first time each year, enrolling full-time or part-time in two- or four-year institutions, and completing a degree at any US degree-granting institution. Results include post-transfer completers as well as those who earn their degree at their home institution.

Thus, the NSCRC data portrays students’ diverse paths to college completion that increasingly include moving between institutions and between states, re-entering colleges after dropping out, and switching between full-time enrollment and part time.

by the numbers

Completion rates continue to vary considerably by sector. Students who started at private nonprofit four-year institutions completed 77.8%, while 68% of those who started at public four-year institutions completed degrees in six years. Those rates contrasted sharply with the completion rates for students who started at private for-profit schools (47.6%) and public two-year colleges (43.1%).

Six-year completion rates increased in more than half of the states, but the improvements were small, with only five states (Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Utah) increasing by one percentage point or more. The previous year, two-thirds of the states saw gains of at least one percentage point. Four states (Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, and North Dakota) saw their completion rates decrease by one percentage point or more from the previous year.

Asian students had the highest six-year completion rate (74.9%), followed by White (68.4%), Latino (50.3%), Native American (49.5%), and black students (43.9%).

Compared to the prior year, completion rates decreased by approximately one percentage point for White, Black, and Latino students, while they increased for Asian and Native American students (+1.2 percentage points and +3.0 percentage points , respectively).

The gender gap in completion rates continued to widen, with a completion rate of 58.5% for men and 65.6% for women. That 7.1 percentage point difference is the largest since 2008.

Students entering college at or before age 20 completed their degrees at a rate of 64%, substantially higher than the rates for students ages 21-24 (54.4%) and those 24 and older ( 51.1%).

Eight Year Completion Rates

NSCRC also reported national eight-year completion rates, which nationally stood at 65.2%. The eight-year completion rate did not change between the Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 cohorts. Compared to other students, proportionally more Latino and Asian students completed their seventh and eighth years.

Transcendence

While the six-year completion rate of 62.3% barely moved from the previous year’s rate, it remains the highest in more than a decade. In 2009, the corresponding national rate was only 52.9%.

Among those who did not complete, 8.9% were still enrolled in post-secondary education six years after starting, while 28.8% were no longer enrolled anywhere. That combined number represents a major challenge for the nation’s colleges and universities.

“Today, of all students who started college six years ago, 37.7 percent have not yet completed any degree or credential.” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the NSCRC. “And with just 8.9 percent still working at it, the remaining 28.8 percent equates to too many falling short of their dreams and missing out on the educated workforce of the future.”

About the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Chamber of Student Compensation. It collaborates with institutions of higher education, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions that lead to better student outcomes.

The Research Center currently collects data from more than 3,600 post-secondary institutions, representing 97% of the nation’s post-secondary enrollment at degree-granting institutions, as of fall 2019.

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