More than three-quarters of students who entered college for the first time in fall 2021 continued their education (at their original institution or another college) in fall 2022, returning the so-called persistence rate to the average level seen before the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center said in a report today.
The clearinghouse’s annual persistence and retention reports are important indicators of whether learners are staying on track to continue or complete their postsecondary educations. Colleges’ success in keeping their existing students enrolled and progressing will be increasingly important, especially as demographic trends portend a decrease in the number of new traditional-age students potentially flowing into higher education.
Retention rates (the proportion of students who re-enrolled the following fall at their original institution) and persistence rates (the proportion of students who re-enrolled the following fall at any institution) took a hit during the pandemic, dropping to 66.2 and 73.9 percent, respectively, in 2020. The persistence rate rose to 75.0 percent in 2021 (for the class that entered in 2020), and 75.9 percent of the students who entered in fall 2021 re-enrolled at some institution in fall 2022, the new report shows. That 75.9 percent figure was the average persistence rate for the classes that entered from 2016 to 2018.
“It is very encouraging to see that the students who entered college in the second year of the pandemic have stayed enrolled at higher rates,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the research center, said in a news release. “The 0.9 percentage percent recovery from the suppressed persistence level of those who started in fall 2020 means nearly 22,000 more students are still in college today.”
Community colleges and four-year public and private institutions reported increased retention and persistence rates, while those rates declined at for-profit colleges.