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Full-Time College Students Have Higher Completion Rates Than Part-Timers

While high school seniors right now are focused on applications to get into college, the bigger issue they will eventually face is getting out.

New research suggests that students who attend private schools have higher completion rates than those who attend public institutions, and enrolling full-time substantially improves the chances of earning a degree over part-timers.

On average, about 54 percent of college students finish a degree in six years, a figure that has remained relatively flat in recent years, according to a preview of a report to be released in December from the National Student Clearinghouse. For students who obtained a credential, 41.8 percent finished at the same institution where they started and 12.4 percent at a different institution.

The report goes beyond traditional graduation rate calculations of first-time, full-time students who stay at the same school and also looks at trends for part-time, transfer, and older students. It covers the cohort of first-time students who started in postsecondary education institutions in fall 2007.

This year's Signature Completion Extra shows students who attended school full-time had a completion rate of 76.2 percent over six years, while exclusively part-time students showed a much lower completion rate with only 21.9 percent completing in the same period.

While overall completion and persistence rates remained steady, there was variation by types of institutions.

The total completion rate over six years was the highest for students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions (71.7 percent) and those at private two-year for-profit institutions (62.9 percent). Students who started at four-year public schools had completion rates of 61.9 percent and rates were lowest for students from two-year public institutions at 37.4 percent.

Since last year's report, completion rates increased 1.3 percentage points for students who started at four-year public institutions and 1.1 percentage points for students who started at two-year public institutions.

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