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Twokin Consulting: Graduating students in 8 years is mixed

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

Takeaways for this Twokin Consulting article:

  • Students not using Pell-grant funding are more successful in graduating (with a certificate of undergraduate degree) by year 8 than students who use Pell-grant funding

  • Full-time undergraduate students are more successful than part-time students. Sixty percent of first-time, full-time, non-Pell students graduated. In comparison, only 20 percent of first-time, part-time, non-Pell students graduated. Similarly, only 17 percent of first-time, part-time Pell students graduated.

  • The most successful students to graduate are first-time, full-time, non-Pell students (60 percent), followed by transfer (non-first-time), full-time, non-Pell students (56 percent).

IPEDS logo - Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and link in Twokin Consulting blog post

One component of a higher education institution’s annual submission of data to The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is to report outcome measures (OM) data. The OM survey that an institution completes reports on undergraduate students’ highest credential earned (i.e., certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s) at 4, 6, and 8 years after entry to the school. For students no longer at the institution, the survey collects an enrollment status outcome for the student. Options are that the student is still enrolled at the institution, enrolled at another institution, or their enrollment status is unknown.

While most IPEDS data is focused on first-time, full-time undergraduate students, the OM Survey allows for a much broader perspective by looking at full-time and part-time students, transfer students (i.e., non-first-time students), and differentiate result between whether the student has Pell grant funding of not. Twokin Consulting has found this provides a more holistic view of student success.

As reported by IPEDS, the 8-year data for the 2012–13 cohort is now available. Here are the results for full-time student:

Twokin Consulting bar graph of IPEDS full-time data for first-time and non-first-time students by pell grant recipients and non-pell-grant recipents
IPEDS data for full-time enrolled students

The results for part-time students are much worse:

Twokin Consulting bar graph of IPEDS part-time data for first-time and non-first-time students by pell grant recipients and non-pell-grant recipents
IPEDS graph for part-time students

When looking at the data, there are three factors Twokin Consulting feel need to be reviewed:

  1. students who are part-time versus full-time,

  2. students who are enrolled in college for the first-time versus non-first-time (i.e., transfer student), and

  3. students who are using Pell grant funding or not.

When comparing part-time student to full-time students, full-time students across all factors are more successful. Intuitively this make sense as part-time students are often balancing financial, work, and family commitments with their desire to pursue their education. In reviewing the data, the most starting results are that only 1 percent of first-time, part-time, Pell grant students earned an award in 8 years. Similar, non-Pell grant students, are not much better with only 2 percent receiving an award.

The most successful students are the transfer students. Whether they are full-time or part-time, Pell grant funded or not, they have a high rate of success.

Pell Grant funding is a successful program to help low-income student attend college. By default, a student who had Pell funding has potential financial challenges with their attending school. This in combination with other potential factors (e.g., first generation student) would help explain why they are not as successful as a non-Pell funded student.

When looking at retention, persistence, and graduation rates, the results offer national benchmarks for a school to compare their results against. The following table is the percentage of students to graduate (i.e., be awarded a certificate or degree) in 8 years:

Type of Student

Pell Grant Recipient

Non-Pell Grant Recipient

First-time, full-time



First-time, part-time



Non-first-time, full-time



Non-first-time, part-time



The full report is available here.

Twokin Consulting can help support your institution improve your retention, persistence, and graduation rates.


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