Completion (and other) rates hold steady

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New federal data continues to support what education advocates say about completion rates for community college students: They increase substantially when you look beyond the two-year window traditionally used to gauge the rates.

About 13.6 percent of full-time, first-time students who enrolled in public two-year colleges completed a degree or certificate within two years, according to data from the U.S. Education Department (ED). When looking through a three-year window, the rate increases to 25.3 percent. It jumps to 30.9 percent when it’s doubled to four years. Those rates for cohort year 2013 are slightly better than the rates reported last year for cohort year 2012 (12.6 percent for two years, 23.5 percent for three years and 29 percent for four years).

The data also show a slight increase in the number of men and women completing a public two-year college credential within three years.

Community college supporters have long argued that it takes many community college students longer than two years to complete a credential because of myriad issues they face, such as work, family obligations, finances and other challenges to continuing their education.

ED’s annual report also includes data on student aid. Nearly three-quarters of full-time, first-time public two-year college students received some type of student aid — the same as reported last year. Slightly more than half receive Pell grants. About 38 percent receive state or local aid, and about 13 percent get institutional aid — again, about the same as reported last year. About one-fifth of them take out a federal student loan.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.