Early Termination

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Peace Corps Manual Section 284 establishes the policies and procedures governing the circumstances under which a Peace Corps Volunteer's service may end prior to the completion of service date. An ET occurs when Volunteer "cannot or should not remain in service until his or her completion of service (COS) date." The most current report available is the FY 2007 Quantitative Early Termination Report. Currently, out of 100 volunteers who begin their service, about 35 will Early Terminate sometime before their completion of service. (Source: "Early Termination in the Peace Corps", Appendix A )

There are four types of early termination:


Determining ET Rates

Before 1981, Peace Corps used the V Year method, standing for 'Volunteer-Year'. It is the number of ET's by an average volunteer during one year of service. Since most volunteers successfully complete their service, which is longer than one year, this number would be a "fraction of an ET". If the V-Year ET Rate was 0.20 (per year) we would expect about 2 volunteers out of 10 to ET per year, or about 1 volunteer out of 10 in a six-month period.

In 1981, at the request of the General Accounting Office, the agency's Office of Special Service began to report Volunteer attrition, using the Cohort Method. This method addresses the question: 'If X number of people enter Peace Corps service during a given time period, how many actually complete their service?"

A cohort is defined as all trainees who enter on duty during a Fiscal Year (i.e. the Class of FY90), and the cohort attrition rate as the percent of Volunteers and Trainees within a cohort who do not complete service (e.g. 29% of the Class of FY90 did not complete service). Cohort attrition is also referred to as 'class of' attrition rate (where 'class of' refers to all trainees entering on duty during a Fiscal Year).

Cohort ET Rates tend to be at least double the ET reported by posts using the V Year chart method. While these latter rates (V-Year) are essential for budget calculations purposes, they provide an incomplete picture of overall attrition. Unlike the V Year chart method used by posts to calculate T and V ET Rates, the cohort method provides a complete picture of attrition because it follows people over their full tour (meaning, for most Volunteers, a 24 to 27 month period).

In the early 2000's, Peace Corps switched formulas to an Annual Method in reported ET data. The 'ET Rate' using the annual method is the number of PCVs/Ts who separated from the Peace Corps during the fiscal year divided by the total number of trainees and volunteers who served at any time during the fiscal year. Thus, an individual who served for one day and another individual who served for the full fiscal year are counted equally for the denominator of the fraction. This method addresses the question: 'Of the n total number of individuals who served at any time during a given time 12-month period, how many early terminate in that same time span?"

Because the different methods in reporting ET data use different data and calculations, care must be taken so as not to inappropriately compare the two. As the Cohort Method spans over a twenty-seven month period (or more) while the Annual method is strictly a twelve-month period, the results do not lend to comparability.

Comparison Between Methods

V Year Cohort Method Annual Method
before 1981 1981 - early 2000s used currently
roughly half of Cohort value "complete picture of attrition" roughly half to a third of Cohort Value
n/a FY 1990: 29% ET Rate FY 1990: 13% ET Rate
n/a Meaning: 29% of all volunteers who
entered service in FY 1990 ET'ed
sometime before their COS date
Meaning: 13% of all volunteers who
served any portion of the fiscal year
of 1990 ET'ed within that year


This graphic demonstrates the difference between calculating ET Rates by the Cohort and Annual Methods.


Converting Between Methods

Since an exact conversion can only be made with raw data, the following will be an approximate conversion between the two methods based on the following assumptions:

These assumptions make every cohort identical and every year identical. While it may be an idealized model, for its simplicity it gives a reasonably accurate conversion from one method to the other.

ANNUAL 1% 2% 3% 4% 5% 6% 7% 8% 9% 10%
COHORT 3.2% 6.4% 9.4% 12.4% 15.4% 18.3% 21.1% 23.9% 26.6% 29.2%
ANNUAL 11% 12% 13% 14% 15% 16% 17% 18% 19% 20%
COHORT 31.8% 34.4% 36.9% 39.3% 41.7% 44.1% 46.4% 48.6% 50.9% 53.1%


Roughly, for every 2% away from 10% the Annual Method is the Cohort method will be 5% away from 30%. For more information on the derivation of the conversation chart presented here, see the report Annual and Cohort Early Termination Rates

Historical ET Rates

Historical ET Rates depends on which formula you used in calculating them. Prior to 2000 Peace Corps used the Cohort Method in calculating ET Rates, and Historical ET Rates were reported using the same method. Since then, Peace Corps has switched to the Annual Method and recently published Historical ET Rates have presented data to correspond to the current method.

This graphic shows Historical ET Rates (up to 1994) using the Cohort Method
This graphic shows Historical ET Rates (up to 2004) using the Annual Method
The Historical ET Rate using the Cohort Method. A cohort is defined as all trainees who enter on duty during a Fiscal Year (i.e. the Class of FY90) and the cohort attrition rate as the percent of Volunteers and Trainees within a cohort who do not complete service.
Example: 29% of all volunteers who entered service in FY 1990 ET'ed sometime before their COS date.
The Historical ET Rate using the Annual Method is the number of PCVs/Ts who separated from the Peace Corps during the fiscal year divided by the total number of trainees and volunteers who served at any time during the fiscal year.
Example: 13% of all volunteers who served any portion of FY 1990 ET'ed within that year

Current ET Rates

Because the different methods in reporting ET data use different data and calculations, care must be taken so as not to inappropriately compare the two. As the Cohort Method spans over a twenty-seven month period (or more) while the Annual method is strictly a twelve-month period, the results do not lend to comparability. Care must be taken in comparing ET Rates reported from documents using different formulas for measuring ET Rates.


Reports using the Annual Method


Reports using both the Annual Method and Cohort Method


Reports using the Cohort Method


(Note: All documents were obtained from Peace Corps, by request, using the Freedom of Information Act and are in public domain)

See Also

Inspector General Reports
Early Termination in the Peace Corps Michael Sheppard, Michigan State University

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