First-Year Persistence Rates Release, fall 2016 Cohort

Annual Persistence and Retention Report Shows Continued Gaps by Race and Ethnicity

by | Jun 27, 2018 | Research Reports, Research Services, Snapshot Reports |

Overall Persistence Rate Increased Slightly for Fall 2016 Entering College Students

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released today its annual Persistence and Retention Snapshot Report, which shows continued wide gaps in first-year persistence and retention rates.

The persistence rate is the percentage of students who return to college at any institution for their second fall term, while the retention rate is the percentage of students who return to the same institution.

Asian students and white students who entered college in fall 2016 persisted into the second fall term of college at the highest rates (85.3 percent and 78.6 percent, respectively), while Hispanic students and black students continued college at lower rates (70.7 percent and 67.0 percent, respectively). A gap of 18.3 percentage points separates Asian and black students.

In addition, the report reveals that of all students who started college in fall 2016 in any public, private or for-profit institution 61.6 percent returned to the same institution in fall 2017. Meanwhile, 12.3 percent transferred to another U.S. institution, for a total student persistence rate of 73.9 percent. The overall persistence rate for the fall 2016 entering cohort represented a slight increase from that of the previous cohort (+0.5 percentage points), and was up 2.3 percentage points from the fall 2009 cohort.

“Overall persistence and retention rates have shown modest but steady improvement in recent years,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “As institutions look to make further gains going forward, however, these data show that many will need to focus on the gaps among students from different race and ethnic groups.”

By taking both persistence and retention into account, the report sheds light on how educational pathways differ by race and ethnicity. For example, among students who entered college in two-year public institutions, Hispanic students were retained at their starting institution at a higher rate than that of white students (53.0 percent compared to 50.2 percent). However, 17.4 percent of white students at two-year public institutions persisted into their second fall term at a different institution, often as a result of transfer to a four-year institution, compared to only 9.7 percent of Hispanic students. As a result, white students in this sector persisted in college at a higher rate than Hispanic students, in spite of the higher retention rate of Hispanic students.

Institutions provided race and ethnicity data to the Clearinghouse for 76 percent of the nearly 3.5 million students reported in the fall 2016 entering cohort.

“Overall persistence and retention rates have shown modest but steady improvement in recent years. As institutions look to make further gains going forward, however, these data show that many will need to focus on the gaps among students from different race and ethnic groups.”

Doug Shapiro
Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center