States continue to see increases in completion rates

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Most states continue to see an increase in college completion rates, with community college starters making stronger one-year gains than public four-year starters, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The overall college completion rate increased in 43 out of the 45 states for which data are available over the last five cohort years (2009 to 2013), according to the center. The six-year completion rate between the 2012 and 2013 cohorts increased in 33 states for community college starters, compared to an increase in 37 states for public four-year college starters.

Twenty-seven states saw at least a one percentage-point increase in their community college completion rate, compared to 22 states that saw similar increases for public four-year starters, the center’s report says. The completion rate for community college starters increased three percentage points or more in eight states: Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming. Among public four-year starters, only Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio made comparable gains, the center says.

The center’s state-level report is a followup to the national report it released in December that showed the six-year completion rate of students who entered two-year colleges in 2013 rose to 40.8 percent. The six-year rates for the previous years’ cohort were 39.2 percent (2012 cohort) and 37.5 percent (2011 cohort).

More variation

The report notes that changes in the community college completion rate vary more by state than the rate of public four-year colleges. Eight of 41 states saw a dip in community college completion rates over the last year, with South Dakota, Montana and Maine seeing drops of more than two percentage points. For public four-year starters, eight of 46 states saw decreases, but all were less than one percentage point.

Students getting younger

Community college starters are becoming more traditional college-aged, the report says. Eight states — Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Carolina — had more than a three percentage-point increase in the share of traditional college-age students (those who are 20 or younger at entry) between 2012 and 2013 beginning cohorts, with New Hampshire (69 percent to 74 percent) and Arizona (66 percent to 70 percent) seeing the biggest jumps.

For public four-year starters, the share of traditional college-age students grew by three percent age points in only two states, Maryland (67 percent to 73 percent) and Oregon (81 percent to 88 percent).

About the Author

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