Retention Data

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center tracks persistence (continuing to be enrolled in some higher educational institution) and retention (staying enrolled at the same institution). Their data shows modest declines during 2009-2012. You can track type of institution and type of enrollment (i.e., full- vs. part-time). They don’t explain the declines, but it probably reflects both the large enrollment increase brought on by the recession and the improving economy.

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, “First-Year Persistence and Retention Rates by Starting Enrollment Intensity: 2009-2012.” (July, 2014).

Good News-Bad News from Brookings

Reports from the Brookings Institute offer mixed messages. In September, their researchers argued that the burden posed by repaying student loans has remained relatively stable for most young people. However, they noted that borrowing more could pose risks: “As students take on more debt to go to college, they are taking on more risk. This risk is rewarded for the average borrower with increased earnings, but individuals who make bad or unlucky bets will be farther from financial security than borrowers in the past.” That’s the good news. The bad news comes in a December report that surveys of current college students find that less than half accurately know how much they owe in student loans, and that they are more likely to underestimate than overestimate their indebtedness.

Elizabeth J. Akers Matthew M. Chingos, Student Loan Update: A First Look at the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances. Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings (September, 2014).

Elizabeth J. Akers Matthew M. Chingos, Are College Students Borrowing Blindly? Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings (December, 2014).

Community College Students Without Access to Federal Loans


This report from the Institute for College Access and Success warns that many community colleges block access to federal student loans. This seem to be an ironic consequence of the federal government’s efforts to set standards (completion rates, etc.): schools that admit lots of high-risk students are reluctant to participate in federal loan programs, so the students wind up taking out more costly loans from private lenders.

Institute for College Access and Success. At What Cost? How Community Colleges That Do Not Offer Federal Loans Put Students at Risk. July, 2014.

Identifying Colleges That Are Helping Students Less


The Education Trust has a new report that offers three measures for how well colleges help students become upwardly mobile: the percentage of first-year students with Pell Grants (a measure of a college’s willingness to admit low-income students); the six-year graduation rate (a measure of an institution’s commitment to students’ completing their education); and the student-loan repayment rate (a measure of whether former students are in fact placed in jobs that pay well). The report focuses on the colleges that perform worst on these measures, and reveals that institutions that seem very similar can perform very differently.

Michael Dannenberg and Mary Nguyen Barry. Tough Love: Bottom-Line Quality Standards for Colleges. Education Trust (June, 2014)

Debt and the Class of 2012

Here’s a report that presents data on cummulative student loan debt for students who graduated in 2012. The burdens are not shared equally; the report identifies high- and low-debt states and colleges.

Matthew Reed and Debbie Cochrane. Student Debt and the Class of 2012. Institute for College Access and Success, Project on Student Debt (December, 2013).

Why Is It So Hard to Track Student Progress?

Keeping track of students’ progress is difficult. The standard path–arrive on campus in September of Year 1, then graduate in May of Year Four–is taken by many students, but there are lots of other paths: people take time off, switch colleges, and so on. Still, it is remarkably hard to get data on student progress. This report argues that Department of Education rules forbid linking important data sets, and identifies the groups that have promoted this ban.

Clare McCann and Amy Laitinen. College Blackout: How the Higher Education Lobby Fought to Keep Students in the Dark. New America Education Policy Program (March 2014).

« Older Entries