Report: Persistence Among First-Year College Students Declines

The rate of first-time students returning for their second year of college at any institution has dropped, according to a newly released report.

First-Year Persistence and Retention Rates by Starting Enrollment Intensity: 2009-2012 notes, however, that the percentage of students who return to the same school for their second year of college has remained constant.

In announcing its report, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicated that the study measures persistence and retention starting with the entering class of fall 2009 through the entering class of fall 2012, and examined who enrolled for the next fall term.

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

The announcement lists the following key findings:

  • Of all first‐time students who started in fall 2012, 68.7 percent returned to college at any U.S. institution in fall 2013. Fifty‐eight percent returned to the same institution.
  • For each entering cohort year, the overall persistence rate is about 11 percentage points higher than the retention rate. So about one in nine students who start college in any fall term transfer to a different institution by the following fall.
  • The persistence rate is falling fastest — down 1.8 percentage points since 2009 — for the youngest first‐time students (age 20 or under), while the retention rate has remained nearly constant.
  • The biggest drop in the persistence rate among first‐time students was at four‐year privates, where it fell 2.8 percentage points, followed by four‐ and two‐year publics, which both fell 2.3 percentage points. The persistence rate rose 0.7 percentage points for four‐year for‐profits.