According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, most students who started college in the fall of 2020 returned to their second year. Although the persistence rate of 75 percent did not reach the pre-epidemic level of 75.9 percent, it increased by 1.1 percentage points compared to the students who were first enrolled in the fall of 2019.
The report, released Tuesday, assesses first-year perseverance and retention rates for first-time college students. Of the first-time students in 2021, 66.4 percent completed a certificate at the institution they started or the year they were admitted, where 8.6 percent transferred to another institution to continue their studies.
There was an improvement in the transfer-out rate for first-time students after the fall of 2019 dropped from an average of 9.2 percent to 7.7 percent before the epidemic. Full-time students were more likely to transfer than part-time (8.3 percent) students (7.9 percent).
Doug Shapiro, executive director of the research center, said in a press release, “The reason for this year’s increase in perseverance rate is more because of the increase in first-year transfer students than the increase in the rest at their starting institution. . “This is a reversal of last year’s trend, where the first-year perseverance rate has declined as a result of the fall in the transfer-out rate.”
Although the increase in perseverance may seem like a promising result, its significance is complex, said Mikyong Ryu, director of research at the center. The increase coincides with a drop in steep enrollment, with first-time enrollment dropping 9.9 percent in the fall of 2020, with a loss of 255,000 students compared to the fall of 2019.
This means that the students who were determined for the fall of 2021 were basically the ones who had the funds and support to start the epidemic in mid-college and were more likely to be successfully enrolled, thus increasing the perseverance rate, he said. Meanwhile, many older students or students from low-income or under-represented backgrounds did not start college that autumn.
“There is a lot to do with the makeup of the group of students entering as the rate of student perseverance changes year after year,” he said. Low-income and older students were more likely to delay starting college in the fall of 2020 than “lucky student populations who have resources, who have the will and ability to attend college amid various epidemic-related barriers.”
Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education and head of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, agreed that the news reported was mixed because students who persevered were “probably more likely to get more.” Could not replace.
The increase in perseverance rate is not “bad news”, but “it is still disappointing that, yes, perseverance continues but enrollment has come down to such a level that we are still seeing fewer students reach the second year of higher education,” he said. He believes a key takeaway from the report is that “Fall 2021 has brought us a little closer to pre-epidemic rules, but we haven’t returned to pre-epidemic rules.”
There was also inequality in the rate of perseverance regarding gender and race. The retention and perseverance rate of female students was three percentage points higher than that of their male peers. Perseverance has increased in all ethnic and racial groups, with the exception of Native Americans, who have experienced a 2.8-percent-point drop. Latino students’ perseverance has improved only moderately, up 0.7 percentage points, from a 2.6-percentage-point drop years ago.
Mammy Voight, president and CEO of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said she was happy to see some “signs of hope” and “perhaps a glimpse of some stability between us and a return to higher education.” Increasing Perseverance However, he found the decline in perseverance rate particularly worrying for Native American students.
“I think seeing such a decline is really a cause for concern, especially in a population that has been so deeply neglected by our higher education system for so long,” he said. “Inequalities that are constantly appearing and in some cases getting really bad are an additional area where policymakers and organization leaders really need to focus their attention.”
Perseverance and retention rates were higher for full-time students than for part-time students: full-time students survived at 80.7 percent and retained at 72.4 percent, while part-time students survived at 51.5 percent. Percent and was held at a rate of 43.8 percent. But the rate of part-time students has increased compared to the full-time students of the previous year.
The progress of the perseverance rate was also uneven across the type of organization. Perseverance rates for first-time students starting in public four-year institutions have declined for two consecutive years, while perseverance has improved for students starting in community colleges and for-profit institutions for four years.
“For community colleges and private for-profit, they are sectors where there is less tendency for perseverance and retention, and they are also sectors that serve much older students,” Kelchen said. “And by autumn 2020, work and child care became really important. And then in the autumn of 2021, we saw it return to somewhat normal and I think it helped the students who were admitted in the ’20’s to stay in college.
Ryu said it is difficult to say whether perseverance will increase. He noted that the progress made could be “short-lived” due to the ongoing public health crisis and the resulting unpredictability of student enrollment types.
“We just have to wait and see,” he said. “We live in a time where American students have a lot of uncertainty about their education plans. More generally, the health and economic effects of the epidemic are still emerging. It will take time to see the consequences of disrupting their education plans. It is very difficult and challenging for researchers to predict next year’s trends based on this year’s numbers. “