- What Do State-Level College and Labor Market Data Teach Us About Higher Education Policy?
- Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged
- College Completion Rates Vary by Socioeconomic Status
- Want a Faster, Cheaper Way to Get a College Degree? Start in High School
- How Can We Help Students Match College Aspirations to College Enrollment?
AIR Index: Who Completes College?
Attaining a college diploma, especially a bachelor’s degree, has a large effect on the average worker’s labor market earnings. Largely as a result, many young Americans enroll in college—in two-year or four-year programs, in the public and private sectors, and in for-profit or not-for-profit schools. But completion rates are not high among American college students, especially among such disadvantaged groups as minorities and the poor. Low achievers in high school also have low completion rates.
In Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged, study co-author Harry J. Holzer (of AIR’s Center on the Analysis of Longitudinal Data for Education Research, or CALDER) looks at administrative data from the state of Florida on college entrants among high school graduates to portray who completes college and at what kind of degree program—vocational/certificate, associate's degree (AA) or bachelor's degree (BA).
Overall college completion rates in Florida:
42 percent for vocational/certificate
30 percent for AA
59 percent for BA programs
(quite similar to rates observed nationally)
Florida college completion rates among race/gender groups:
White females have relatively high completion rates:
37 and 60 percent in AA and BA programs
Black males have low rates:
15 and 42 percent respectively
Students from poor families also have low completion rates:
25 percent complete AA and 52 percent complete BA programs
among poor females
while only 19 percent complete AA and 42 percent complete BA
among poor males
Students in the lowest and highest quartiles of high school achievers have very different completion rates:
46 percent complete AA and 66 percent complete BA program
in the top quartile
Just 17 percent complete AA and 46 percent complete BA
in the bottom quartile
Even among high achievers, college completion at the BA level
is much lower for poor students than for others:
55 percent among the poor
67 percent among the non-poor
Enrollment rates at public BA programs:
46 percent of high achievers among poor students
60 percent of high achievers among non-poor students