For colleges to develop effective dropout prevention strategies, it is necessary to have a clear picture of who these early dropouts are. This report identifies distinguishing characteristics of this group by analyzing six years of transcript data on 14,429 first-time college students who in 2005 and 2006 enrolled at one of five community colleges in a single state. Of these students, 28 percent never returned to the same college after their first semester, and the majority of these students never attended any college again.
Early dropouts were, on average, older than early persisters. While early dropouts did not differ appreciably from early persisters in terms of secondary credentials, their developmental placement rates suggest that they were somewhat less academically prepared than early persisters. Early dropouts performed very poorly in their college coursework, particularly in their developmental courses. With failure and withdrawal rates in some courses exceeding 60 percent, it is clear that the first-term experience for early dropouts was not a positive one.