College Persistence Indicators Research Review

Ariel Kirvoshey

Research suggests that the underlying reasons for not completing a college degree are as varied as the numbers and types of students who attend college. Three decades of research focused on persistence reveals that the topic is complex in that it represents a blending of individual personal, academic, and background characteristics with higher education institutions, as well as a transition between arguably structured educational experience (high school) to a wide range of settings, climates, and cultures that characterize colleges and universities.

Still, there are early signs of risk that a student will not complete a degree. These signs or indicators may allow high schools and institutions of higher education to target supports to students while they are still in school and well as to examine patterns over time. Tracking these indicators may enable higher education institutions to meet accountability measures to improve degree completion rates.

This review focuses on indicators that could be included as data elements within a state longitudinal data system in terms of the practicality of data sources and burden of collection. Findings are organized into student indicators and institutional indicators; the student indicators fall into three categories: precollege behavior, college behavior, and life experience.

The guide was originally developed for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education but has been adapted for many states.