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Tracking Educational Outcomes, the Great Recession

February 26, 2015

The Signature Report, an annual report on college completion conducted by researchers at the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and Indiana University’s Project on Academic Success, identifies six-year student success outcomes and college completion rates by state for the cohort that began post-secondary education in fall 2008. Unlike typical measures of graduation rates that fail to include completions that happen at institutions other than the starting institution, which heavily (and negatively) impact the non-persistence rate for students who started at four-year public institutions for each state, this report factors in these transfers. Furthermore, by segmenting in areas such as type of institution (public, private, two-year, four-year), enrollment intensity (full-time, part-time, mixed), age at first entry, and gender, the report is able to capture even more insights not collected by traditional studies of educational outcomes. The Signature Report is funded through a grant from the Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private foundation committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college.

Because the fall 2008 cohort began their post-secondary education at the onset of the Great Recession, the authors note that this cohort is quite different than the previously studied fall 2007 cohort. The fall 2008 cohort was 12 percent larger than the 2007 cohort (about 300,000 students), has about 20 percent more older students, and also has more part-time students and students at community colleges. Overall, the national six-year completion rate for the 2008 cohort was 55 percent, compared to a completion rate of 56.1 percent for the 2007 cohort. While 28.6 percent of the 2007 cohort was no longer enrolled at the end of the study period (either dropped out or left higher education with no degree or certificate), this share increased to 30.3 percent for the 2008 cohort. These declines were observed mostly in students who began the fall 2008 school year older than age 20.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, six-year outcomes were the highest for exclusively full-time students who started at four-year public institutions. Of these students, 82.5 percent completed their education, with 72.2 percent completing their education at the institution in which they began their education. On the other end of the spectrum, just 18.8 percent of exclusively part-time students who started at two-year public institutions completed their education. Of these students, 70.3 percent were not enrolled at any institution at the end of the six-year period.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center makes their data available here. For subscribers of the Chronicle of Higher Education, an interactive data tool is also available here.


higher ed