Trouble Ahead? 2019-20 IPEDS Data Reveals Decrease in Completions

August 30, 2021

Looking at newly released IPEDS data, Gray Associates finds that this was the first year-over-year decline in total completions this decade.

The recently released 2019-2020 IPEDS data show a slight decrease in overall degrees conferred compared to the previous year.  While this data is still preliminary, it shows that the total number of completions in 2019-2020 was 5,311,058 compared to 5,320,540 for 2018-2019, a decrease of 9,482 awards, or 0.2%.  This was the first year-over-year decline in total completions this decade.

Total IPEDS Completions, 2010-2020

The drop-off was not spread evenly across award levels, however.  Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral completions actually increased in 2019-2020 compared to the previous year, despite the obvious challenges wrought by the Covid pandemic.  The entire drop-off is found in associate or undergraduate certificate programs, completions of which fell by 1.8% and 3.7%, respectively, year-over-year.  The largest year-over-year percentage gain was found in graduate certificates, which added 8,224 completions; an increase of 11.2% over 2019.

Bachelor’s degrees accounted for the largest share of overall completions in 2020 at 41%, growing to over 2.16 million completions.  Even with the year-over-year decline in completion volumes, associate degrees and undergraduate certificates accounted for 19% of overall competitions each.  Graduate certificates, while growing quickly, accounted for the lowest share of total completions, at 2%.  Master’s and doctoral degrees accounted for 16% and 4% of completions, respectively.

As Gray Associates continues to sort through the IPEDS data, we will post updates on changes and trends in program growth, modality and sector.  Keep an eye out for more news and analysis in the days and weeks to come.  For convenience, subscribe below to receive an alert when we release additional news.

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Gray Associates, Inc. provides the best available data, software, and facilitated processes to help higher education institutions make high-stakes decisions regarding academic programs, pricing, and locations.

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Gray Associates, Inc. is a software and services firm focused on higher education. We help education clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies that maximize outcomes for students, the school, and its constituencies.

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