Benchmarking Breakdown: Completion Rates by Degree Type and More

November 18, 2015

Bill DeBaun, Program Analyst

In July, NCAN released our 2015 “Closing the College Graduation Gap” Benchmarking Report. This is the second in our benchmarking series, and it reports enrollment and completion rates from the high school classes of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2014

The Benchmarking Project is important for a variety of reasons. Chief among these are that there aren’t national statistics on the outcomes of students served by college access and success organizations, and it is important to show those outcomes and the impact of our field. The first two Benchmarking Reports, which include student data from 24 and 42 members, respectively, show encouraging results about the impact members are having in fulfilling their missions of helping low-income, first-generation students, many of them students of color, to access and complete a postsecondary education. At NCAN we strongly encourage members to consider the outcomes of their own efforts (by, for example, tracking the Common Measures), and through the Benchmarking Project, we are looking at those outcomes from a broader, field-wide perspective.

Although the Benchmarking Project is not a representative (or random) sample of NCAN-served students or students nationwide, it is an important step toward better understanding the work of college access programs. We are wrapping up recruiting programs for the third round of the Benchmarking Project and have been encouraged by an increased number of interested programs. The more programs and students we have submitted, the more representative our sample will grow to be.

Another valuable use of the Benchmarking Report is to give programs figures against which they can measure their own students’ outcomes. Programs can look at their students from these graduating classes and see if they enrolled or graduated at levels above, below, or on par with a large sample of their peers who were also served by college access programs. It is in this spirit of providing members figures against which programs can compare their students’ outcomes that we release the tables below.

These tables show postsecondary outcomes broken down by students’ enrollment behaviors and demographics for the high school classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010. In the 2015 Benchmarking Report, we released overall completion rates by enrollment behavior and demographics, but we did not break these out by the type of degree received. Some notes and observations follow these tables.

Click to enlarge.

Download these tables in PDF form.

First, three notes about these tables. The completion rates are for the highest degree a student received (e.g., a student who attained an associate’s degree and later a bachelor’s degree is only counted as having completed a bachelor’s degree). Where the ‡ symbol appears, values have been suppressed because of a small sample size. The enrollment behavior column indicates the timing of the student’s first postsecondary enrollment.

Although we continue to analyze the valuable data we received from the second round of the Benchmarking Project, here are some observations about the tables above:

  • In the classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010, students who enrolled two or more years after high school graduation were significantly* more likely to earn a certificate than those who immediately enrolled after high school. Later enrollers were not significantly more likely to earn an associate’s degree than immediate enrollers in the classes of 2008 and 2009 but were more likely to do so in the class of 2010.
  • Immediate enrollers were more likely to have earned a bachelor’s degree in the six year window examined, but it is important to remember that later enrollers had a shorter window in which to complete their degree. The question how likely later enrollers are to complete within six years after they enroll is unfortunately beyond our ability to address at this time.
  • Women, in all of the high school class, enrollment behaviors, and degree types considered, were more likely to earn a degree than men. This is consistent with on-going national trends.
  • Across all three high school classes, Hispanic students were less likely to earn bachelor’s degrees than Black students. Hispanic students earned associate’s degrees and certificates at roughly the same rate as white students (except for late enrollers, who were more likely to earn an associate’s or certificate).
  • In 2008 and 2009, Black students were more likely to attain any kind of credential than Hispanic students, but in 2010, overall attainment rates between the two groups were not significantly different. Further analysis is merited to see if Black students are more likely to attain credentials in their fifth and sixth years after high school than Hispanic students.
  • At this time, there are not national benchmarks to which we can compare the data in these tables, but future reports may allow us to do so. Although this limits the context in which we can place these tables, they do serve as a reference for comparison for college access and success programs, even if they do not show member-served students’ performance relative to overall performance from students nationwide.

If you have questions or comments about these tables, or would like to request other data points for future release, we welcome your correspondence. Stay tuned to the NCAN blog as we release more data like this in the future!

* Five percent significance level



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