College completion hit eight-year high, report says

The six-year college completion rate has hit an eight-year high, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC). Sixty percent of students who began college in 2013 completed college within six years, although the NSCRC notes that the rate appears to be rising more slowly than in past years.

For the report, the NSCRC looked at first-time college students attending public and private four-year colleges and public two-year programs. The ongoing progress suggests that “institutional efforts to improve retention, progression, and success from the start of each student’s college career are increasingly effective,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of NSCRC, said in a statement.

Experts also say the results reflect colleges’ efforts to better support “nontraditional” students. Adult learners’ completion rate, for instance, rose by 2.3 percentage points to 45.8 percent.

Completion rates for Latinx and Black students, however, lagged those for White and Asian students. “There are still significant racial and ethnic disparities in terms of who completes college,” Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education at the Education Trust, told Inside Higher Ed. “While there have been some gains in college completion among African American men, it’s not enough.” Latinx and Black students made substantial gains compared with the prior year’s cohort, even outpacing gains made by Asian and white students during the same timeframe, Education Dive reports.

While calling the latest findings good news overall, observers said the slowing rate of growth signals an opportunity for further improvement. “While we want to celebrate the increase in completion, it is lower than it has been in previous years,” Courtney Brown, vice president of strategic impact at the Lumina Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed. “I think we have to figure out a way to be better.”

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