Why do some students complete a degree while others drop out? Different factors affect success for students at two-year and four-year colleges, concludes Competing Explanations of Undergraduate Noncompletion in the American Education Research Journal. From College Bound:
For students at two-year colleges, receiving financial aid is the strongest predictor of finishing a degree. By contrast, at four-year institutions, the amount of aid had a smaller impact, the research shows. This was a surprising finding, since costs are lower at community colleges and students receive relatively little aid. Work-study aid is especially important to helping students finish their degrees at two-year colleges, the study found.
At four-year colleges and universities, academic preparation is the biggest factor in predicting student success. This was not as strong a factor at community colleges, perhaps because they’re prepared to educate students with weaker academic preparation, researchers speculated.
Students who had nontraditional profiles (part-timers, married, with kids, or those who delayed college) have persistently lower graduation rates across institution types. Their noncompletion disadvantage is clear even when controlling for other factors, such as longer work hours, less aid, or lower socioeconomic status.
Campaigns to boost completion rates “should be aimed at preventing delayed entry to college, increasing part-timers’ level of enrollment, increasing financial aid to community colleges, and reducing students’ work hours,” the study concluded.