August 2023 - Persistence Rates, Student Stress, and Disparities in Asian-American-Student Admissions

Dr. Wendy Kilgore |
August 23, 2023
  • Research
  • AACRAO Research Insights
  • AACRAO Research Resources
  • artificial intelligence
  • Learning Mobility
  • microcredentials
  • online education
  • Student Experience
  • value of degree


August, 2023 Eye on Research



Many projects have kept me busy these last few months, and I’m sure the same is true for you, with the start of the new academic year. In addition to the AACRAO research projects covered below, I am helping to update the CAS standards for transfer, which have not been updated for many years. AACRAO volunteers are helping me and others on this project. 

The forthcoming book, Academic Operations: The Role of the Registrar is also moving forward. I am serving as an editor on that project and am excited for it to be released at the 2024 annual meeting. I am also involved in helping AACRAO reenvision the Transfer Handbook to focus on learning mobility overall. Keep an eye open for a call for authors, which will be sent to AACRAO members in September.

On another note, AI keeps popping up in my news feed. Today I received an update from the Daily Dispatch AI sharing that a federal judge has ruled against AI generated art. A potential lawsuit from the New York Times (the Times) against OpenAI (ChatGPT) for copyright infringement is in the works. If this lawsuit moves forward and the Times prevails, this could mean the ChatGPT dataset will have to be rebuilt. Much is happening in this area; I recommend the Daily Dispatch AI as a resource if you want to try and keep up.

AACRAO Research Update

A 60-Second survey on institutional governance/decision-making and the role of the registrar is currently deployed. It will close on the date this blog is published. We are working on a revision to the Chief Enrollment-Management Career profile survey, which is scheduled for early September.  The October 60-Second survey, a partnership with Ad Astra, will focus on the operational efficiency of academic operations.  

Current Higher-Education Research and Related Topics

Persistence Rates Return to Prepandemic Levels

A new Persistence and Retention report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research center analyzes the rates at which first-year postsecondary students persist in their studies and remain in school. This year's report introduces a new data dashboard for interactive analysis, visualization and exploration of the longitudinal data, which can be downloaded. Key points include the following:

  • persistence rate for students who began college in fall, 2021 was 75.7%, up 0.9% from the previous year

  • retention rate matches the prepandemic average for the incoming classes of 2016 to 2018

  • persistence and retention rates increased for all major racial/ethnic groups, except Asian students; that retention was stable

  • for the first time since 2018, the number of students entering postsecondary education in fall increased by +3.4% (78,400 students), although it did not return to prepandemic levels

Study Examines How Leaders in the United States Disproportionately Graduate from Highly Selective Private Colleges

A working paper from Opportunity Insights found children from high-income families are twice as likely to attend Ivy-Plus colleges as those from middle-class families, even when test scores are comparable. Using data from various private and public colleges suggests highly selective private colleges could increase the socioeconomic diversity of America's leaders by changing their admissions policies. The study’s key points include the following.

  • Attending an Ivy-Plus college increases a student's chances, by 60%, of reaching the top 1% of the earnings distribution. 

  • Attendance at any Ivy-Plus college nearly doubles a student’s chances of attending an elite graduate school, and triples their chances of working at a prestigious firm after graduation. Figure 1. 

  • Three key factors that give children from high-income families an admissions advantage are uncorrelated or negatively correlated with postcollege outcomes.

  • SAT/ACT scores and academic ratings are highly predictive of postcollege success.

  • Highly selective private colleges could diversify the socioeconomic backgrounds of America's leaders by changing their institution’s admissions practices.

Figure 1: Share of Individuals in Leadership Positions who Attended Ivy-Plus Colleges

Source: Opportunity Insights. “Diversifying Society’s Leaders? The Determinants and Causal Effects of Admission to Highly Selective Private Colleges | Opportunity Insights,” July 21, 2023. 

Analysis Shows Some Graduate-Degree Programs Are not Worth the Debt

A new analysis, conducted by The HEA Group and Student Defense, examines graduate programs across the United States and focuses on which schools allow students to pay down their educational debt after they attend. U.S. Department of Education data was used to assess whether students have been successful in paying down educational loans after pursuing an advanced degree. Key points include the following.

  • Most institutions’ graduate students pay down at least some interest soon after graduating or leaving.

  • Some institutions observe a significant accumulation of interest because borrowers are unable to make sufficient payments to prevent balances from growing.

  • There are few protections in place to prevent students from taking on too much debt while earnings are limited after earning a graduate credential.

  • Some institutions have entire cohorts of students who owe millions of dollars more on their educational debt than the amount they initially borrowed.

Figure 2: Additional Loan Principal of Graduate Student Cohort

Source: The HEA Group. “Some Graduate Schools Never Pay Off” The HEA Group, July 31, 2023. 

Working Paper Examines Disparities in Asian-American-Student Admissions

A recently conducted study (full PDF also available) analyzed 685,709 applications from Asian-American and white students to select U.S. institutions. The study found Asian-American applicants were 28% less likely to be admitted to at least one school than white students with similar academic qualifications. Figure 3. The gap was particularly pronounced for students of South-Asian descent. The study attributed this to two factors: 

  • white applicants were more likely to have legacy status than Asian applicants

  • institutions were less likely to admit students from Asian-majority geographic regions

Figure 3: Estimated Admission Rate by Race and Test Score

Source: Grossman, Joshua, Sabina Tomkins, Lindsay C. Page, and Sharad Goel. “The Disparate Impacts of College Admissions Policies on Asian American Applicants.” NBER, August 3, 2023. 

Research Finds Community-College Enrollment Affected by State Minimum-Wage Changes

A new working paper (full PDF also available) from the National Bureau of Economic Research examines how minimum-wage increases can alter college-enrollment opportunities. Public 2-year institutions experience a significant drop in enrollment, particularly among part-time students at community colleges, in response to increases in a state’s minimum wage. However, these changes have modest effects on credential attainment. Key points include the following:

  • 58% of community-college students, ages 18 to 24, have jobs, compared to 46% of similar students at 4-year institutions

  • nearly 65% of students between 25 and 35 years old are employed and work an average of 23.5 hours a week 

  • 27% of working community-college students earn $10 an hour or less

  • 59% of working community-college students earn $12 an hour or less; 42% percent of working 4-year university students earn $12 an hour or less

New Polling Examines College Students’ Worry and Stress

A Gallup web survey shows 76% of U.S. college students reported experiencing enjoyment during the spring, 2023 semester; 66% felt stress and 51% felt worry. Female students are more likely to experience negative emotions, with 72% experiencing stress and 56% feeling worry. Sadness is also higher among female students. They are less likely to report enjoyment. Key points include:

  • 72% of female students report experiencing stress the previous day, compared with 56% of male students; Figure 4.

  • Gallup research indicates Americans' assessments of their mental health reached an all-time low in the winter of 2022

  • emotional stress was a major reason students considered dropping out in fall, 2022

Figure 4: U.S. College Students' Daily Emotions, by Gender


Source: Inc., Gallup. “College Students Experience High Levels of Worry and Stress.”, August 10, 2023.

Survey Gathers Student Views on the College Experience

A Student Voice survey found over 30% of students spend no time on extracurricular activities. Half of college students spend 1 to 5 hours a week on extracurricular activities, and other students spend even more time. The survey asked 3,000 students about campus life, orientation and technology's role in their college experience. Figure 5. The timing and location of events were the top barriers to participation. Key points include:

  • off-campus work is a barrier to participation, cited by 40% of students 

  • 43% of students on financial aid report scheduling or location of extracurricular activities makes it difficult to participate

Figure 5: Top Barriers to Participation in Campus Life

Source: Flaherty, Colleen. “Student Assessments of Their College Experience.” Inside Higher Ed | Higher Education News, Events and Jobs, n.d. 

Faculty Teaching Preferences

The higher-education landscape has changed significantly since the COVID 19 pandemic, including enrollment fluctuations, funding shifts and increased use of different teaching methods and technologies. EDUCAUSE surveyed 982 U.S. higher-education faculties to understand their teaching preferences. Faculty continue to teach online, in hybrid modes or in a combination of these approaches. Despite recognizing the value of diverse modalities, many faculty members still favor in-person teaching due to perceived challenges with engagement and assessment of student needs in online and hybrid formats. Key points include the following:

  • 53% of faculty prefer teaching fully in-person classes

  • in-person teaching allows for gauging student reactions and promoting engagement and learning outcomes

  • 68% of faculty teaching more than one class per term prefer teaching all their courses in the same modality

  • faculty and student experiences are affected by teaching in nonpreferred modes, especially for those favoring in-person teaching

  • 96% of faculty view their technological skills as advanced or competent, but modality preferences are driven by engagement, flexibility, student needs and safety

  • in hybrid courses, faculty prefer to decide which sessions are online or in-person to maintain a consistent mode for each class session

  • faculty recognize the importance of instructional support, but time limitations hinder their frequent use

Figure 6: Faculty teaching modality preference

Source: Muscanell, Nicole. “2023 Faculty and Technology Report”  by EDUCAUSE, August 21, 2023

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