Exploring the Link between Full-time Enrollment and Persistence


A new study released by a collaborative of higher education organizations working in partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse suggests a caveat to previous findings regarding the positive relationship between full-time enrollment and degree completion. Among non-first-time (NFT) college students, those using a “mixed” enrollment strategy—combining full-time and part-time enrollment over the course of their studies—were more likely to complete an associate degree and less likely to drop out than their exclusively full-time or exclusively part-time counterparts.

While this trend did not hold true in relation to four-year degrees, where those enrolled full-time persisted at the highest rates, this new information has important implications for two-year institutions considering high mandatory “credits per semester” policies. Dave Jarrat, Vice President of Marketing at InsideTrack and study contributor, suggests that the flexibility provided by mixed enrollment allows NFT students to persist through changes in work and family commitments.

The data come from a national effort to explore persistence patterns among NFT college students through a collaboration between the American Council on Education (ACE), InsideTrack, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and the National Student Clearinghouse. The study examined two cohorts of data from the National Student Clearinghouse, the first comprising 4.5 million NFT students who re-enrolled from 2005 through the first half of 2008 and the second featuring 7 million NFT students who re-enrolled between the latter half of 2008 and 2013. The study also includes a wealth of information on state-level, institutional, and other trends among NFT students. The researchers plan to continue analyzing the data and will publicly release the dataset in the spring.  


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