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Understanding the Increased Time to the Baccalaureate Degree

John Bound and Sarah Turner ()

No 06-043, Discussion Papers from Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

Abstract: Time until completion of a baccalaureate degree has increased markedly over the last three decades. Between 1972 and 1992, average time to degree increased by more than one-quarter of a year, the completion rate among college attendees dropped from 51.1% to 45.3% and, among those receiving degrees, the percent receiving a degree within 4 years dropped from 56.8% to 43.6%. We assess the extent to which these shifts result from changes in the preparation of college students over time, reductions in collegiate resources, erosion in family circumstances, or other broad macro-economic adjustments. We produce evidence that increased stratification in U.S. higher education and reductions in collegiate resources outside the top-tier of institutions are a primary component of the explanation for the observed increases in time to degree. The shift toward initial enrollment at two-year institutions rather than four-year institutions accounts for some of the decline in completion rates. In addition, we find evidence of increased hours of employment among students, which is consistent with students working more to meet rising college costs.

Keywords: college degree; bachelors degree (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I23 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2007-08
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