Report: Postsecondary Outcomes for Non-First-Time Students
Organizations: a joint project of the student-coaching firm InsideTrack, the American Council on Education, NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, and the National Student Clearinghouse
Summary: This new study on the completion rates of students who have re-enrolled in college found that only 33.7 percent of such students completed their degrees, compared with 54.1 percent of first-time students.
Completion rates also varied by institution type: The rates of returning students who completed their degrees within six to eight years were higher at four-year private nonprofit institutions (52.5 percent) than at two-year public institutions (27 percent).
At four-year public institutions, completion rates were 44 percent for returning students and 60 percent for first-time students. At four-year private nonprofit institutions, completion rates were 52 percent for returning students, and 72 percent for first-time students. And at four-year, for-profit institutions, completion rates were 37 percent for returning students and 42 percent for first-time students.
The initial findings are based on data provided by the National Student Clearinghouse for 4.5 million students who re-enrolled in college from August 15, 2005, to August 14, 2008, after at least one year away from higher education. The group also analyzed a second cohort of seven million students who re-enrolled from August 15, 2008, to August 14, 2013. Results from both data sets are segmented by level of institution, age, gender, geographic location, enrollment status, and type of degree being pursued.
The data also noted completion rates by states. Larger ones, like Florida, New York, and Texas, had returning-student completion rates of 37 percent to 40 percent, while California, which accounts for about one in five returning-student enrollments, had one of the worst completion rates for that group, at 24 percent.
Bottom Line: The study provides information the researchers note that we already know: that returning college students are less likely to complete degrees than first-time-college students are. But the study quantifies the size of the disparities in completion rates among higher-education institutions.