Dropout Before Year Two

Sixteen percent of college-enrolled ACT-tested students from the high school graduating class of 2012 dropped out of the higher education system before their second year of study. This dropout rate varies considerably by both student characteristics and college characteristics.

Note: In this report, totals may not sum to 100% due to rounding.

Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Parent Education Level and ACT Composite Score

  • Within each level of parent education, the percentage of students who dropped out of college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
  • Among students with lower ACT Composite scores, the share of students who dropped out of college decreases as their parents’ education level increases. This gap in the dropout rate by parent education level diminishes substantially as students’ ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Parent Education Level and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 37% of college-enrolled ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 whose parents did not attend college dropped out of college before their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeNo CollegeSome CollegeBachelor’s DegreeGraduate Degree
1–1537%35%28%26%
16–1928%26%19%17%
20–2320%17%12%11%
24–2714%12%9%8%
28–329%9%6%7%
33–366%7%6%5%

Note: Based on 84% of college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom parent education level is available.


Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Degree Plans and ACT Composite Score

  • Within each ACT Composite score range, a smaller share of students dropped out of college as their degree plans increase. This gap in the dropout rate by degree plans lessens only slightly as students’ ACT Composite score increases.
  • Regardless of their degree plans, the percentage of students who dropped out of college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Degree Plans and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 47% of college-enrolled ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who planned to earn less than a bachelor’s degree dropped out of college before their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeLess Than Bachelor’s DegreeBachelor’s DegreeGraduate Degree
1–1547%33%29%
16–1939%24%19%
20–2330%16%12%
24–2724%11%8%
28–3218%8%6%
33–36 6%5%

Note: Based on 91% of college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012 for whom degree plans are available.


Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Initial College Type Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • The percentage of students who dropped out of college decreases as ACT Composite score increases, and this negative relationship holds for each type of college attended.
  • Compared to students who initially attended a 4-year college (public or private), a larger share of students who initially attended a 2-year college dropped out of college. This gap in the dropout rate between 2- and 4-year colleges is consistently large within every ACT Composite score range.
Chart showing Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Initial College Type Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 40% of college-enrolled ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended a 2-year college dropped out of college before their second year.

ACT Composite Score Range2-yearPublic 4-yearPrivate 4-year
1–1540%26%27%
16–1931%19%17%
20–2324%12%10%
24–2721%8%8%
28–3220%6%7%
33–3617%5%5%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012.


Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Selectivity of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • Within almost all ACT Composite score ranges, students who initially attended less-selective colleges typically dropped out of college at higher rates than students who initially attended more-selective colleges. Students who initially attended moderately selective colleges dropped out at the lowest rates. This gap in the dropout rate by college selectivity diminishes substantially as students’ ACT Composite score increases.
  • Within each college selectivity category, the share of students who dropped out of college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Selectivity of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 38% of college-enrolled ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended a college in which a test score is not required for admission dropped out of college before their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeNo Test Score RequiredLess SelectiveModerately SelectiveHighly Selective
1–1538%25%19%25%
16–1928%20%13%16%
20–2321%14%8%9%
24–2716%11%6%8%
28–3211%8%5%6%
33–367%7%5%5%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012. College selectivity is defined in this report by the midpoint of the college entrance exam score for first-time students, where “Less Selective” < 20, “Moderately Selective” = 20–27, and “Highly Selective” > 27.


Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Location of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • Regardless of college location (i.e., in-state versus out-of-state), the percentage of students who dropped out of college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
  • Within each ACT Composite score range, a larger share of in-state than out-of-state students dropped out of college. This gap in the dropout rate by college location lessens as students’ ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Location of Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 35% of college-enrolled ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended an in-state college dropped out of college before their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeIn StateOut of State
1–1535%30%
16–1924%19%
20–2315%11%
24–2710%8%
28–327%6%
33–366%5%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012.


Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Distance to Initial College Attended and ACT Composite Score

  • Among those with lower ACT Composite scores, the percentage of students who dropped out of college decreases as the distance to their college increases. As ACT Composite score increases, the dropout gap diminishes and becomes nonexistent between students at colleges within 26–100 miles from home and those at colleges more than 100 miles from home.
  • Within each college distance category, the share of students who dropped out of college decreases as their ACT Composite score increases.
Chart showing Percent of Percent of Students Who Dropped Out by Distance to Initial
College Attended and ACT Composite Score

Graph reads: 36% of college-enrolled ACT-tested students with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 who initially attended college within 25 miles of their home dropped out of college before their second year.

ACT Composite Score RangeLess than 26 miles26–100 milesMore than 100 miles
1–1536%33%29%
16–1926%23%18%
20–2319%14%11%
24–2714%9%8%
28–3210%6%6%
33–368%5%5%

Note: Based on college-enrolled ACT-tested high school graduates from the class of 2012.