I'm confused as to how this set of variables works. From reading the documentation, it seems like wdraw_orig_yr4_rt for 2012, wdraw_orig_yr3_rt for 2011, and wdraw_orig_yr2_rt for 2010 should all refer to withdrawal rates for the 2009 cohort in different measurement years (2013, 2012, and 2011, respectively). But if I look at these numbers for a given institution, they don't seem to obey that description.

  1. Could someone be more specific as to what these measure?
  2. If I wanted to calculate a cumulative withdrawal rate for given cohort and a specific institution (i.e. total % drop outs over 4 years), could that be accomplished with this data and how?

1 Answer 1


I recommend looking at the Data_File_Cohort_Map.xls in the download all data zip file. The cohorts and measurement years depend on which data file you're looking at. For example, if you're looking at the 2012 data file *YR2 refers to the AY2011 cohort measured in AY2013 and *YR3 refers to AY2010 cohort measured in AY2013

  • The data file cohort map confirms my original statement. But what about the second part of the question? Is there a way to use these variables to construct a cumulative withdrawal rate for a specific institution and cohort year?
    – mlegower
    Sep 17, 2015 at 17:54
  • If I understand the question correctly, I believe you don't need to calculate this because WDRAW_ORIG* is in fact cumulative number you are looking for. Sep 17, 2015 at 20:10
  • To make sure I'm understanding correctly, let me illustrate with an example. For Harvard University, wdraw_orig_yr4_rt = 0.037 in 2012 wdraw_orig_yr3_rt = 0.042 in 2011 wdraw_orig_yr2_rt = 0.045 in 2010 This would mean that the cumulative withdrawal rate of 2009 enrollees was 4.5% through 2 years, 4.2% through 3 years, and 3.7% through 4 years? That doesn't conform to my expectations of how that rate should behave. For a given cohort, I would expect the cumulative withdrawal rate should weakly increase with the number of years since enrollment. This makes me think I am missing something.
    – mlegower
    Sep 17, 2015 at 20:43
  • Withdrawal is not an “absorbing state”. i.e., students can transition from withdrawn to another valid state in subsequent years. In other words, students who withdraw in one year can re-enroll in the original school or enroll in a new school in different years after initially withdrawing. One thing to remember is that these data are calculated with the federal student grant/loan system so this only applies to students receiving federal aid and a transfer to a new school without receiving federal aid at that new school would not be captured as a transfer. Sep 17, 2015 at 21:10
  • Also wanted to mention that these variables should add to 100%, so if WDRAW_ORIG* decreases over time other categories should increase: DEATH_YR4_RT, COMP_ORIG_YR4_RT, COMP_4YR_TRANS_YR4_RT, COMP_2YR_TRANS_YR4_RT, WDRAW_ORIG_YR4_RT, WDRAW_4YR_TRANS_YR4_RT, WDRAW_2YR_TRANS_YR4_RT, ENRL_ORIG_YR4_RT, ENRL_4YR_TRANS_YR4_RT, ENRL_2YR_TRANS_YR4_RT, UNKN_ORIG_YR4_RT, UNKN_4YR_TRANS_YR4_RT, UNKN_2YR_TRANS_YR4_RT Sep 17, 2015 at 21:20

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