Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2009 Cohort

By Nicholas Brock

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) recently published their 4th annual report on national completion rates for undergraduate students entering college in the fall of 2009. While the report revealed an 8 percent increase in the number of students enrolled in postsecondary education from 2008 to 2009 (and a 24 percent increase in the number of students over 24 years old enrolled), it also noted that nearly 33 percent of the 2009 cohort of students left college without earning a degree.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • The overall national six-year completion rate fell from 54 percent in 2008 to 52.9 percent in 2009.
  • Among students who “delayed entry” (meaning they began their studies between 20 and 24 years old), the rate of completion fell 8.7 percentage points.
  • For older students (students 24 years old and older), completion declined by 5 percentage points.
  • By contrast, completion rates for traditional-age students (between the ages of 18 and 24) declined by only 0.6 percentage points between 2008 and 2009.
  • The percentage of students who stopped out or dropped out without a degree or certificate increased from 49.9 percent in the fall of 2008 cohort to over half in the fall of 2009 cohort (56.1 percent).