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This study uses new measures of distance education to assess the impact on retention rates at 4-year public and private non-profit universities in the U.S. We present evidence that the percent of undergraduates enrolled exclusively in distance education courses reduces a university’s freshmen retention rate, particularly for institutions with a relatively low median SAT score. We find no clear evidence of lower retention rates when undergraduates are enrolled in a combination of on-campus and distance education courses. These findings suggest increased enrollment through distance education can come at the expense of lower retention.
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