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Home » About the Clearinghouse » Media Center » Annual Persistence and Retention Report, Featuring Race and Ethnicity Data for the First Time, Reveals Wide Gaps

Annual Persistence and Retention Report, Featuring Race and Ethnicity Data for the First Time, Reveals Wide Gaps

Jun 16, 2017 | Media Center, Press Releases, Research News

Overall Persistence Rate Declined Slightly for Fall 2015 Entering College Students

HERNDON, VA (June 16, 2017)The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released today its annual Persistence and Retention Snapshot Report. The report, which includes race and ethnicity data for the first time, details wide gaps in first-year persistence and retention rates.

Asian students and white students who entered college in fall 2015 persisted into the second fall term of college at the highest rates (84.2 percent and 79.2 percent, respectively), while Hispanic students and black students continued college at lower rates (72.5 percent and 66.9 percent, respectively). A gap of 17.3 percentage points separates the groups persisting at the highest and lowest rates.

“Adding race and ethnicity to this year’s report provides an important new lens for understanding educational pathways for postsecondary students. Combined with enrollment intensity, age and starting institution type, practitioners now have new ways to understand the retention and persistence outcomes that they observe for students on their own campus,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Research Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The persistence rate is the percentage of students who return to college at any institution for their second fall term, while the retention rate is the percentage of students who return to the same institution. By taking both metrics into account, the report sheds light on how educational pathways differ by race and ethnicity.

For example, among students who entered college in two-year public institutions, Hispanic students were retained at their starting institution at a higher rate than that of white students (55.1 percent compared to 50.2 percent). However, 17.6 percent of white students at two-year public institutions persisted into their second fall term at a different institution, often as a result of transfer to a four-year institution, compared to only 9.8 percent of Hispanic students. As a result, white students in this sector persisted in college at a higher rate than Hispanic students, in spite of the higher retention rate of Hispanic students.

Institutions provided race and ethnicity data to the Clearinghouse for 79 percent of the 3.7 million students reported in the fall 2015 entering cohort.

In addition, the report shows that of all students who started college full-time in fall 2015 in any public, private or for-profit institution only 61 percent returned to the same institution in fall 2016. Meanwhile, 12.3 percent transferred to another U.S. institution, for a total student persistence rate of 73.4 percent. The overall persistence rate for the fall 2015 entering cohort represented a slight drop from that of the previous cohort (-0.2 percentage points), but was still up 1.9 percentage points from the fall 2009 cohort.

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more, visit