Students are staying enrolled at decade-high rate, new report reveals

Private colleges and universities were the only sector to see their retention and persistence rates fall. 

Student optimism toward higher education shines through the latest retention report from The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The rate of fall of 2022 freshmen returning for another year represents a decade high, according to the organization’s latest report on persistence and retention.

Over three-quarters of all first-year students (76.5%) returned to a postsecondary institution, and the rate of students returning to the institution where they started increased a full percentage point to 68.2%, also a decade-high.

“While there is still much room for further improvement, these findings are great news for students and institutions alike and another sign that the struggles of students who enrolled during the pandemic are behind us,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the Clearinghouse, said in a press release.

“First-year persistence and retention are strong early indicators for students staying enrolled throughout their program of study and eventually completing college,” Shapiro noted.

Public four-year institutions’ retention rates, now at 78%, have increased by 3.1 percentage points since fall 2013. While only 55% of all community college students return to the same institution, this sector has seen the largest 10-year leap at 3.7 percentage points and its retention rate has risen for four consecutive years.

On the other hand, private colleges and universities were the only institutions to see their retention and persistence rates fall.

Persistence and retention rates were much higher for students 20 years old and younger, compared to their older counterparts, standing at 80.9% and 71.9%, respectively. The rates for students aged 21 and up hovered below 50% across all sectors, only showing gains at for-profits, two-year schools and baccalaureate institutions that primarily grant associate’s degrees.

Retention rates for Hispanic, Native American and Black students’ retention rates also come in lower and are significantly below the national rate. Nevertheless, Black first-year students saw year-over-year percentage increases on par with national growth.

Furthermore, Clearinghouse data indicates that students enrolled in the top 10 majors were the most likely to show bumps in persistence and retention rates. Here’s a sample of their persistence rates and year-over-year percentage point increases:

  • Engineering: 92.8% (+1.2)
  • Computer and information science: 85.7% (+2.1)
  • Health professions: 87.9% (+1.1)
  • Business, management and marketing: 85.7% (+1)
  • Biological and biomedical sciences: 91% (+1)

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Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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