Higher Education

After falling, college graduation rates begin to rebound

Despite huge push, most recent figures remain just short of pre-decline levels

Graduation rates have begun to rebound after falling, and while the most recent figures still are short of pre-decline levels, analysts expect them to continue their slow rise.

The proportion of students who started college in the fall of 2010 and graduated within six years rose to 54.8 percent, up just under 2 percentage points from the proportion who started in the fall of 2009, but still short of the proportion who started in 2008, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks this.

That means 55,000 more students who began in 2010 have finished than who began in 2009, the center reported—but also that more than 1.3 million haven’t, at a time when the nation is behind schedule at meeting a goal of increasing the proportion of the population with degrees to 60 percent by 2025.

About 40 percent of Americans today have postsecondary degrees and credentials.

“There is still ample room for improvements,” said Doug Shapiro, the research center’s executive director.

Work to raise completion rates began in 2009, when President Barack Obama announced his American Graduation Initiative. Many states have since tied funding for their public universities and colleges to improvements in their graduation rates, among other measures of performance.

About 74 percent of students who start at four-year private, nonprofit institutions graduate within six years, 62 percent at four-year public universities, less than 40 percent at two-year colleges, and 37 percent at private, for-profit schools, the new report says.

Full- and part-time students all graduated at slightly higher rates, the figures show.

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Jon Marcus

Jon Marcus, higher-education editor, has written about higher education for the Washington Post, USA Today, Time, the Boston Globe, Washington Monthly, is North America higher-education… See Archive

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