National Trends in Undergraduate Degree Completions

March 27, 2023

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Title: Undergraduate Degree Earners, Academic Year 2021-2022

Authors: Aaron Pevitz, Mikyung Ryu, and Doug Shapiro

Source: National Student Clearinghouse

The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) has released a report on undergraduate graduation trends for the 2021-2022 academic year highlighting differences in undergraduate degree completions by student age and institution type.

Although there was a decrease in undergraduate degree completions, NSC found variations by institution type and age. The report attributes the drop in graduations to the decline in total enrollment from the 2020-2021 academic year.

Undergraduate degree completions had a year-to-year decrease overall. For the first time since this data has been collected, American college students experienced a decrease in graduation totals for a 1.6 percent decline in enrollment. Nationwide, 58,800 fewer students graduated with an undergraduate degree compared to the 2020-2021 academic year. But within the nationwide decline, decreases were pronounced in two key areas: learners over the age of 25 and associate degree graduates.

The largest drop was in associate degree completions. Looking at institution or degree type, much of the decline in completions can be attributed to associate degree learners. Associate degree completions declined by 7.6 percent, or a total of 56,800 students nationwide. Baccalaureate degree completions also dropped, though not as sharply, by 2.4 percent. However, first-time students enrolled in a certificate program increased by 9 percent from the 2020-2021 year.

Completions varied by age. While each age grouping had declines in completions, these drops were pronounced among adult learners, or those 25 years or older. This age bracket experienced a 4.1 percent decrease in graduates. Although students aged 24 years or younger also saw declines (-1.0 percent), the magnitude of the decline was far less.

To download the report, click here.

—Alexander Cassell

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