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Resource roundup: College persistence and completion

Resource roundup: College persistence and completion

By Sara Mitrano
March 25, 2020

Workforce projections indicate that 90 percent of new jobs [21,141 KB PDF icon ] in growing high-wage industries will require some form of postsecondary education. However, only 56 percent of men and 61 percent of women who begin a bachelor’s degree will graduate within six years [11,819 KB PDF icon ]. We rounded up resources from across the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program and other relevant networks to highlight factors and strategies that may influence and support college persistence and completion.

Factors influencing college persistence and completion

A REL Appalachia blog post explores the barriers that families and students experience related to postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion. Many of the most significant barriers are financial; however, information and advising services that help guide students through the college admissions and enrollment process have had positive impacts on postsecondary outcomes.

REL Midwest supports research on college completion through the Midwest Career Readiness Research Alliance and has published two reports related to college completion in Indiana and Minnesota.

A National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance evaluation brief looks at the college enrollment and completion outcomes of students who attended charter middle schools included in the National Evaluation of Charter Middle Schools, conducted more than a decade ago.

Strategies to support college persistence and completion

The College Completion Network, funded through the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education, brings together research teams focused on postsecondary success to share ideas, build new knowledge, conduct strong research, and promote the findings. The network is working to refine and evaluate interventions for increasing the number of students who earn certifications and degrees in open- and broad-access institutions, with the goal of providing college leaders and policymakers with reliable evidence on promising strategies.

Two REL Midwest documentaries share evidence-based practices and programs for supporting students of color as they prepare to enter and succeed in college: High Hopes and Higher Education focuses on Black students, and Making It: Latino Students’ Pathways to College focuses on Latino students.

REL Midwest compiled relevant research in response to Ask A REL questions related to the effects of dual enrollment programs on student outcomes and the effects of high school equivalency alternative programs on student outcomes (e.g., completion rates).

A REL Northwest report examines accelerated learning strategies, such as dual credit courses, among Oregon public high school students for the 2013/14 through 2015/16 school years. Students who participated in accelerated learning were more likely to enroll and persist in college. An infographic [161 KB PDF icon ] is also available.

A REL Pacific report compares the enrollment, characteristics, and academic outcomes of students in developmental courses with those in credit-bearing courses at Northern Marianas College. The students who initially enrolled in credit-bearing English or math classes had consistently more positive outcomes than students who initially enrolled in non-credit developmental English or math courses.

In response to an Ask A REL question, REL Southwest conducted a search for research about effective strategies to recruit back and support college persistence and completion among stop-outs—that is, adults who have earned some college credit but left before attaining a certificate or degree.

REL West conducted a randomized controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of a technology-based intervention designed to help community college students complete an academic plan to guide their choices of coursework and achieve their academic goals. The report suggests that workshop and one-on-one counseling interventions increased participating students’ academic plan completion rates.

A What Works Clearinghouse practice guide provides higher education instructors, instructional designers, administrators, and other staff with five recommendations for supporting college students’ learning through the effective use of technology. One recommendation is for educators to use technology to provide timely and targeted feedback on student performance.

Forthcoming studies on college completion

REL West is examining the number of certificates and degrees attained by recent graduates of California community colleges in four rural regions and determining the extent to which the credentials and degrees attained align with regional occupational demand.

REL Northwest is partnering with the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission to study the impact of Oregon Promise, a statewide financial aid program, on high school graduates’ postsecondary access and success.

REL Southwest is using longitudinal administrative data to examine postsecondary enrollment and outcomes among Texas public high school graduates with disabilities. The study will examine the extent to which high school graduates with disabilities who enroll in two-year colleges receive special services while attending college.

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Author Information

Sara Mitrano Staff Picture

Sara Mitrano

Research Associate | REL Midwest


Beating the odds (2)

Charter Schools (2)

College and Career Readiness (42)

Data Use (32)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (31)

Educator Effectiveness (36)

English Learners (10)

Literacy (11)

Math (1)

Online Courses (7)

Research Tools (2)

Rural (14)

Teacher Preparation (24)

Teacher Recruitment (2)

Teacher Retention (2)

Teacher Workforce (14)

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