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Low College Completion Rates for Students Pursuing Certificate, Associate, and Bachelor’s Degrees

Despite increases in college enrollment rates, too few students are making it through certificate, associate and bachelor’s degree programs to attain a credential, according to a report released this week.

Complete College America (CCA), a national non-profit organization working to increase the number of Americans with a college degree or credential, presents new comprehensive state and campus college completion data in Time is the Enemy.

The federal government only requires colleges and universities to report data on first-time, full-time students. However, 40 percent of public college students attend part-time and, therefore, are often overlooked in federal data. Others have been overlooked as well, according to the report:

“Start full-time and then transfer to a different institution? You haven’t been counted. Older students, students trapped in remediation, students pursuing valuable career certificates… all have been virtually invisible to policy makers, elected officials, and taxpayers.”

Unlike most federal data, the report’s data shows rates for part-time and full-time students and those pursuing a certificate, 2-year degree or 4-year degree. CCA analyzed this data with the cooperation of governors from 33 states. Unfortunately, these newly-available statistics are sobering:

In Texas, 79 percent of college-going students enter 2-year public colleges full-time or part-time. Of these students, only 2 percent graduate on time. After 4 years, only 7 percent total will graduate with a degree.

Many other states showed similarly discouraging results. To view your state’s results, click here.

The report states that “students who are poor, older or of color struggle the most to graduate.” Some barriers include remedial coursework and inconvenient scheduling.

Programs that yield high student completion rates are also highlighted, such as Tennessee’s Technology Centers and the City of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs. Strategies for increasing graduation rates, such as block scheduling and on-campus jobs for commuter students, are also described.

View the full report and helpful visuals on the Complete College America website.

Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst

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