June 2019

IZA DP No. 12411: Why Have College Completion Rates Increased?

Jeffrey T. Denning, Eric R. Eide, Merrill Warnick

published in: American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2022, 14 (3), 1 - 29

College completion rates declined from the 1970s to the 1990s. We document that this trend has reversed - since the 1990s, college completion rates have increased. We investigate the reasons for the increase in college graduation rates. Collectively, student characteristics, institutional resources, and institution attended do not explain much of the change. However, we document that standards for degree receipt may explain some of the change in graduation rates.