Unsuccessful Course Completion and Student Success

These reports explore the association between an unsuccessful course completion (defined as earning a D, F, or U grade) in undergraduate courses on retention and graduation for first-time, full-time (FTFT) students. 

A student with no unsuccessful course completions has a predicted freshman retention rate of 95.2% compared to 88.0% for an identical student with at least one unsuccessful course completion (a 7.2 percentage point difference). Further, a student with no unsuccessful course completions has a predicted six year graduation rate of 86.4% compared to 60.2% for an identical student with at least one unsuccessful course completion (26.2 percentage point difference).

About 1,800 students per year have at least one unsuccessful course and unsatisfactory course completions are more common among students who are underserved by higher
education (i.e., higher rates among FG, RM, and Pell recipients). Given the large number of students with unsuccessful course completions, gains  in retention and graduation rates could be obtained if institutional policies and programs can intervene early, before students are poised to earn D, F, or U grades. Such interventions could contribute towards gap-closing efforts for underserved populations.