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Research Center Releases Report by Race and Ethnicity Showing Large Gaps in College Completion Rates

Work Needed to Improve Minority Students’ Postsecondary Outcomes

HERNDON, VA— (April 26, 2017) —The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center today released a new report, Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates by Race and Ethnicity – Fall 2010 Cohort. This report is the first use by the Research Center of a new nationally representative sample of students, enabling the national results released in December, 2016 to be disaggregated by race and ethnicity. These results will be updated annually.

Nationally, 54.8 percent of students who started in any type of college or university in fall 2010 completed a degree or certificate within six years. When examined by race and ethnicity, Asian and white students had a much higher completion rate (63.2 percent and 62.0 percent, respectively) than Hispanic and black students (45.8 percent and 38.0 percent, respectively). These rates include students who graduated after a transfer and also count both full-time and part-time students, attending both two-year and four-year institutions.

“These data show that even with recent institutional improvements, counting students who transfer does not narrow the graduation rate gaps,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director, National Student Clearinghouse. “This means that there is much work to be done to improve the postsecondary outcomes of underrepresented minority students, regardless of whether they are native to the institution, transferring in, or transferring out.”

Key Findings include:

  • Among students who started in four-year public institutions, black students had the lowest six-year completion rate (45.9 percent). The completion rate of Hispanic students was almost 10 percentage points higher than that of black students (55.0 percent). Over two-thirds of white and Asian students completed a degree within the same period (67.2 percent and 71.7 percent, respectively). Nationally, 62.4 percent of students finished a degree or certificate within six years.
  • Among students who started in four-year public institutions, black men had the lowest completion rate (40.0 percent) and the highest stop-out rate (41.1 percent). Asian women had the highest completion rate (75.7 percent) and the lowest stop-out rate (11.2 percent).
  • The overall completion rate for students who started in two-year public institutions was higher for white and Asian students (45.1 percent and 43.8 percent, respectively) than Hispanic and black students (33 percent and 25.8 percent, respectively). Nationally, the rate was 39.2 percent, as the Research Center reported in December 2016.
  • The completion rate at four-year institutions for students who started at a community college (with or without receiving an associate’s degree first) was dramatically different for students of different racial and ethnic groups. While almost one in four Asian students and one in five white students had completed this transfer pathway by the end of the six-year study period, just one in 10 Hispanic students and about one in 12 black students did.
  • The completion gaps between racial groups tend to shrink as students grow older. Among traditional-age students, there was a 24-percentage point gap in the completion rates of black and white students (42.7 percent and 66.8 percent, respectively) and 17.5-percentage points gap between Hispanic and white students (49.3 percent and 66.8 percent, respectively). Among adult learners (those who started college at 25 or older), however, the gap was 12.3 percentage points (42.0 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively) between black and white students and just 9.1 percentage points between Hispanic and white students (42.0 percent and 32.9 percent, respectively).

This new report is a supplement to the national report, released in December 2016, which provides six-year completion rates disaggregated by race and ethnicity for students who began postsecondary education in fall 2010. The fall 2010 cohort was also the focus of a state-level report, released in March 2017. Unlike the previous reports, which relied on the full national student population from the National Student Clearinghouse data, this supplement is limited to a representative sample of schools selected specifically for race and ethnicity analyses. The Research Center worked with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to create the sample.

This report was supported by a grant from the Lumina Foundation, which is an Indianapolis-based private foundation, committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college, especially low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Lumina’s goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more about the Clearinghouse Research Center, visit http://research.studentclearinghouse.org.

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