Snapshot Report – First-Year Persistence and Retention

By Casey Nguyen

In June of this year, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a snapshot report detailing persistence and retention rates for first-year college students from the fall 2009 entering cohort to the fall 2015 entering cohort.*

Among the findings:

  • Of all students who began college in 2015, 73% persisted at a U.S. institution in fall 2016, while 61% were retained at their initial institution.
    • Persistence rate indicates the rate of students who return to any institution (including their initial institution) for a second year.
    • Retention is the percentage of students who return to the same institution where they started.
  • From 2009 to 2015, the overall persistence rate is 13 percentage points higher than the retention rate, indicating that nearly 1 in 8 students who start college in any fall term will likely transfer to a different institution in the following year.
  • Persistence and retention rates vary by race and ethnicity:
    • Asians had the highest persistence rate at 84%;
    • Black students had the lowest persistence rate at 70%;
    • Persistence for Hispanic students was 73% and for White students was 79%.
  • Persistence and retention for first-year students also differ by age:
    • Students who are 20 and under had a persistence rate of 78%
      • 15% of these students enrolled in a different institution the following year.
    • The persistence rate for students who between 20 and 24 was 58% and the persistence rate for students over 24 was 53%.
      • The retention rates for these students were 54% and 50%, respectively.
    • First-year persistence and retention rates also varied by sector:
      • The persistence rate in fall 2015 for a public four-year was almost 82%, while the retention rate was 70% of entering students.
        • At public four-year institutions, full-time students had a persistence rate that was 1.3 times higher than part-time students.
      • The persistence rate at two-year public institutions was 63% with a retention rate of 49% of entering students.
      • The highest persistence and retention rates were found at four-year private institutions, where students had an 85% persistence rate and a 75% retention rate.
      • Four-year for-profit institutions had the lowest persistence rate at 56% and a retention rate of 50%.

*It is important to note that data coverage by NSCRC does not fully reflect enrollment data. Data provided by institutions to NSCRC includes about half of the students reporting in the fall 2015 entering cohort.