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Completion of a postsecondary credential is both an individual accomplishment and a contribution to the state’s educational attainment goals. For students, completion marks not only an end, but also a new beginning, whether it be employment, career advancement, or personal growth. 

But completing a postsecondary credential can be difficult, and some groups of students complete at lower rates than others and take longer to do so. In many instances students begin their postsecondary education without the knowledge and skills needed for success. These students start at a disadvantage and may require remedial coursework, which can leave them at greater risk of non-completion.[1] Working adults, students of color, and other underrepresented populations often face additional challenges, leading to lower completion rates. Shifting economic conditions can also influence student persistence and time to completion.

Postsecondary Completions Dashboards

Postsecondary Awards Conferred

While overall enrollments decreased slightly during the five-year period, the total number of postsecondary awards increased by nearly five percent. Of all award types, the number of certificates requiring less than one year to complete increased the most (14.8 percent). Conversely, certificates requiring at least one year represented the largest decrease (-7.2 percent). Finally, the number of associate and bachelor’s degrees increased by 5.6 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.

Source: WSAC staff analysis of IPEDS Completions, survey A data from the U.S. Department of Education (September 2017). Next Update:  Summer 2019.

Completion Demographics

Degrees awarded to Hispanic and students identifying as being of two or more races surged from 2012 to 2016. This led to a higher share of degrees awarded to underrepresented students over this period. However, not all groups saw improvements, illustrating that more work is required to eliminate opportunity gaps.

Completion Demographics: Focus on Individual Subgroups 

Completion Rates




[1] A Skilled and Educated Workforce (2013), A Joint Report of the Washington Student Achievement Council, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board.