Higher Education Consultants

Mid-Year Retention Indicators Report

Up to 19 Percent of College Freshmen Fail to Continue to Their Second Term of Classes

Study breaks down annual college retention rates into first-to-second-term rates, providing new benchmarks for institutional comparisons

February 21, 2011—First-to-second-year retention rates traditionally reported nationally for U.S. two-year and four-year public and private colleges have been broken down further by Noel-Levitz, showing 9 to 19 percent of today's first-year students at the median (depending on institution type) failed to persist from fall to spring. First-to-second-term attrition was less for second-year college students than for first-year college students, but was still noteworthy.

"Many colleges will soon notice or have already noticed that some of their students who were enrolled in the fall are no longer enrolled," said Tim Culver, Noel-Levitz's vice president of consulting services and former student success director for Shawnee State University. "These metrics give colleges and universities a basis for evaluating first-term performance and for accurately predicting annual retention rates.

"College and universities have historically waited to evaluate retention performance," added Culver. "However, institutions are now in a position to plan more effectively using key leading performance indicators which can be collected and assessed at mid year. By using these data as a basis, along with other information a college knows about its students, colleges should be able to calculate correlations with retention and graduation rates and identify expected retention rates well in advance of IPEDS submissions."

More findings from the study, based on incoming cohorts of full-time, first-time-in-college, degree seeking freshmen, provide the following additional mid-year metrics for evaluating institutional performance:

  • First-year students at two-year public colleges completed 77 percent of the credit hours they attempted during the first term (median rate); first-year students at four-year public institutions completed 88 percent of the courses they attempted at the median; and first-year students at four-year private institutions completed 93 percent of the credits they attempted at the median;
  • Among four-year institutions, those with higher selectivity reported lower attrition;
  • At four-year institutions, fewer first-year students who were conditionally admitted persisted from the first to the second term compared to their non-conditionally-admitted counterparts.

The Noel-Levitz study was titled Mid-Year Retention Indicators Report. For a full copy of the report, including a list of the 254 colleges and universities that participated, visit www.noellevitz.com/BenchmarkReport. 

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