A report by the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center highlights the need to change the way completion rates are calculated.
By ignoring students’ increasingly diverse paths to graduation, the report, many completion studies “don’t fit reality” and thus significantly underreport completion rates, according to Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates. It adds that taking nontraditional pathways into account dramatically drives up the U.S. college completion rate, from 42 percent to 54 percent.
Not a straight path
Among all students who started at a public two-year institution, 36 percent received a degree or certificate within six years, with 12 percent earning a degree at a different institution, the report says.
According to NSC, today’s students are much more likely to follow a diverse educational pathway, with many transferring schools before they graduate, enrolling part time or switching between part-time and full-time status. As a result, it’s no longer useful for completion studies to focus only on first-time, full-time students who graduate from the same institution where they started.
“Capturing students’ completions beyond their starting institution will sizably increase total completion rates observed nationally,” the report states. (Read more and find out key areas of the report.)