Policy Analysis | November 2010

Retention and Completion Rates of College Freshmen

Recent reports have highlighted the need for the United States, and the South in particular, to produce more college graduates in order to be more competitive globally.  Other research has highlighted the costs to state governments of college students who begin college, but do not return to school for their second year.  The South lags the rest of the nation slightly in both first year retention and college completion rates, although not by a significant factor.  These two measures are closely related, as the first-to-second year transition is considered critical to higher education persistence.  Virginia has the highest first-year retention and six-year graduation rates in the region at nearly 80 percent and 63 percent respectively.  Oklahoma has the lowest first year retention rate in the region at 64.4 percent.  Louisiana's 40.8 six-year graduation rate is the lowest in the region.   For more information on higher education persistence, see Dr.Vasti Torres presentation and a summary of her remarks from the 64th SLC Annual Meeting in Charleston. 

State Overall First-Year RetentionRate (%) Six-Year Graduation Rate
Alabama 70.9 45.8
Arkansas 67.8 41.4
Florida 70.4 50.6
Georgia 72 47.2
Kentucky 70.4 44.7
Louisiana 70.7 40.8
Mississippi 73.2 51
Missouri 74 56.6
North Carolina 78.2 57.9
Oklahoma 64.4 46.5
South Carolina 74.4 57.6
Tennessee 72.1 51.3
Texas 72.4 49
Virginia 79.2 63
West Virginia 70.5 44.6
Region 72.0 50.7
Nation 74.7 55.9

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Graduation Rate Survey, 2009.