Completion rates within six years of first enrolling in a community college
First-time degree-seeking students who began their postsecondary studies in fall 2010
Some 39 percent of U.S. community college students completed a degree or certificate program within 6 years of starting college. Among the students who completed a degree or certificate program, 17 percent completed the program at their starting institution while 3 percent completed at a different two-year institution and 9 percent completed at a different four-year institution. Of the students who did not complete a degree or certificate program (61 percent), 16 percent were still enrolled after six years and 45 percent left community college with no credential.
Women had higher rates of completion in all three categories: same institution (29 percent), different two-year institution (4 percent), and different four-year institution (10 percent) compared with men (25 percent, 3 percent, and 9 percent respectively). Women were also less likely to have left community college before completion (41 percent) compared with men (48 percent).
Full-time and mixed full-time and part-time attendance was associated with higher rates of total completion compared with exclusive part-time attendance (55 percent and 37 percent, respectively vs. 20 percent).
Asian and white students had the highest total completion rates (44 percent and 45 percent, respectively) compared with the other categories. Hispanic students had the highest rates of completion at a different two-year institution (3 percent). Asian and Hispanic students were more likely to still be enrolled in college after six years (24 percent and 22 percent, respectively) while black students were most likely to have left community college before completion (57 percent).
At community colleges, graduation means attainment of a certificate or associate degree. However, many students attend community colleges to take lower-division courses for a bachelor's degree, and some transfer to a four-year institution without obtaining a credential. From the perspective of the community college, these students have finished a curriculum that prepared them for transfer and, therefore, should be considered as having completed. Some states even track and report which community college students graduate from other institutions. Most sources, however, do not specify what proportion of transfer students have finished the coursework required for upper-division standing at the four-year college, and research suggests that many students transfer without reaching this threshold. A completion rate that combines transfer and degree attainment is sometimes referred to as a "success rate."
Completion is defined as having obtained a degree or certificate at any institution within the six-year study period.
Age: Ages were determined at the end of the 2010 calendar year.
Race/Ethnicity: Data comes from a supplement to the Signature Report 12 which includes a limited sample of community colleges that provided race and ethnicity data.
Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Wakhungu, P.K., Yuan, X., Nathan, A. & Hwang, Y. (2016, November). Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2010 Cohort (Signature Report No. 12). Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Huie, F., Wakhungu, P.K., Yuan, X., Nathan, A., & Hwang, Y. (2017, April). A National View of Student Attainment Rates by Race and Ethnicity – Fall 2010 Cohort (Signature Report No. 12b). Herndon, VA: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.