36M Americans are post-secondary non-completers; data gathered from 1993 – 2019

36 million Americans never completed their post-secondary education, according to data from 1993 to date. 51 percent of non-completers were women and 67 percent of these students attended only community colleges and failed to graduate or finish college.

Enrollment into college or any other post-secondary enrollment is meant to open doors for students after completion. This, however, is not always the case because some students, for whatever reason are not able to complete their education.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in its research tried to track where these students went. They were able to obtain data for the 36 million Americans who had attended a post-secondary educational institution but never got a chance to graduate.

Data tracked for post-secondary non-completers

The data was taken from more 97 percent of all post-secondary institutions in the country, making it a more reliable data sets. They were also able to track students across institutional boundaries, therefore able to determine those students who left one college without finishing a given degree, but ended up in another institution and completed the course.

The data tracked students who had enrolled in post-secondary education from 1993 to date and never completed. The actual figure of 36 million in December 2018 was a 22 percent rise from the first data that was obtained five years ago when tracking these students started.

The data was startling because of the implications it carried for colleges, federal government education department and for policymakers.

The report found that the average age of these students now is 42 and a medium age of 39. It also showed that 56 percent left post-secondary education when they were in their 20s or younger and 51 percent of those who left colleges were women.

The data was able to determine that for a typical American who has some college education but no degree at some point had a short college carrier and 53 percent left within two years.

74 percent of these students attended only one institution. 67 percent enrolled only in community colleges. Thereby making it the most popular institution for these students who left without credentials.

For colleges and policymakers, determining the best path to re-enroll these students into post-secondary education where they can complete their education is an important dilemma that needs an answer. These institutions have been struggling with ways to tap into these groups of students.

Implications of post-secondary data

The research was able to show some characteristics of individuals who have re-entered the college students and found that 58 percent of these students are younger than 30 years. This is compared to 23 percent overall who have decided to complete their colleges at some point.

The completers were also more likely to have attended college when they were in their 20s, 75 percent compared to 56 percent. Another not surprising finding is that most completers were students who had attended colleges more recently.

These data, when analyzed properly will be able to help universities make choices and policies that can reintegrate these students. This will be a step forward for these 36 million students who some might happily take the opportunity to complete their degrees.