Authors: Jenna Cullinane and Jane Arnold Lincove
Date: May 2014
Publication Type: Report, 52pp.
Time to degree is a key factor in institutional productivity and managing the costs of college for students and families. While there is a robust body of empirical and theoretical work addressing baccalaureate degree completion and persistence, much less is known about the factors that drive time to degree. Most importantly, the institutional factors that affect time to degree have been largely unexamined, with a primary focus on the characteristics of students. As a result, it is unclear if students or institutions should be the target of policy interventions. This study examines student-level and institutional-level factors that contribute to timely — or not so timely — completion. The study uses a discrete-time hazard model to analyze statewide longitudinal student-level data from Texas along with institutional data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Results suggest time to degree is a complex phenomenon, and both student and institutional factors are significantly associated with time to degree. We find differential effects of institutional factors on the probability of graduating on time, graduating late, and dropping out of college, which suggest that policy changes designed to reduce time to degree may have perverse effects on overall graduation rates.