Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Video: How many NC students don’t finish college?

Throughout this series covering North Carolina’s education pipeline, we’ve looked at why too few of our citizens have a college degree or credential. Today, we’re looking at the students who entered a postsecondary institution but did not finish their degree.

Most of the students who drop out of college do so during or after the first year. By increasing first-year retention, or the number of students who return after one year of higher education, North Carolina could boost its overall on-time graduation rate. A student is considered “on-time” if they complete a degree or credential within 150 percent of normal time. That means three years for an associate degree or six years for a bachelor’s.

The North Carolina Community College system’s retention rate is significantly lower than the UNC system’s. Many students in the community college system are adult learners or other nontraditional students, entering school from a wider variety of life circumstances and backgrounds than those pursuing a four-year degree after high school. Students need support systems in either setting to boost their chances of completion.

This is part 5 of 5 in our video series explaining North Carolina’s Leaky Educational Pipeline & Pathways to 60% Postsecondary Attainment with the help of Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography and co-author of the study. Make sure to watch part 1, part 2, and part 3, and part 4.

Editor’s note: EdNC has partnered with Carolina Demography and the Belk Endowment to highlight key concepts from the report, “North Carolina’s Leaky Educational Pipeline & Pathways to 60% Postsecondary Attainment.” The Belk Endowment supports the work of EdNC.

Robert Kinlaw

Robert was director of multimedia for EducationNC. He is a journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker in the Triangle. Robert attended both public and private grade schools in North Carolina and graduated from the Media and Journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has produced video content for The News & Observer, ABC11-WTVD, UNC-Chapel Hill, The News Reporter and more. His short documentary Princess Warrior received an Excellence in Filmmaking award at the 2017 Carrboro Film Festival. Visit his website at