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The rates remain the same

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​A new U.S. Education Department report reflects community college students’ struggles to earn a credential within three years.

Among 2011-12 first-time postsecondary students who first enrolled in a public two-year college to pursue a certificate, 36 percent did so within three years at any institution. Of those who enrolled in an associate degree program, 2 percent earned a certificate and 12 percent completed an associate degree within three years.

The new data mirror graduation rate data recently released by ED pertaining to community colleges. But the data released on Tuesday doesn’t come from IPEDS, which pulls its information from institutions. Rather, it comes from multiple sources, most importantly interviews with students, according to the report.

“It asks students about their intentions and compares those with where they end up after three years,” said Jolanta Juszkiewicz, director of policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Heads up: The next issue of AACC’s biweekly Washington Watch newsletter will provide an analysis of recent reports pertaining to attainment/graduation rates.

Student outcomes – attainment, persistence and retention – are tracked for three years at any institution as well as at the first institution attended. Among 2011-12 first-time students enrolled in a public two-year institution, 10 percent of those enrolled in certificate programs and 28 percent of those in associate degree programs had not yet earned a credential at their first institution in spring 2014.

The data also include information on student characteristics and backgrounds, such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, dependency and highest educational attainment of a parent, as well as attendance intensity and highest level of high school math completed. 

White students were somewhat more likely to attain a certificate or an associate degree (18.4 percent) at any institution after three years than their African-American (12.8 percent) and Hispanic (12.2 percent) counterparts.

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