College Graduation Rates

Some schools have very high graduation rates and some don’t.  As expected, the more selective a schools is (admitting only the top students) the more likely their rates will be higher.  National average is about 60%. Is that good?  That means that 40% are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars and not obtaining a degree but are still saddled with student loans.

Undergraduate Retention and Graduation Rates


The 6-year graduation rate (150 percent graduation rate) for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2010 was 60 percent. That is, by 2016 some 60 percent of students had completed a bachelor’s degree at the same institution where they started in 2010. The 6-year graduation rate was 59 percent at public institutions, 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 26 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 63 percent for females and 57 percent for males; it was higher for females than for males at both public (62 vs. 56 percent) and private nonprofit (68 vs. 63 percent) institutions. However, at private for-profit institutions, males had a higher 6-year graduation rate than females (28 vs. 23 percent).
Six-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree in fall 2010 varied according to institutional selectivity. In particular, 6-year graduation rates were highest at institutions that were the most selective (i.e., those that accepted less than 25 percent of applicants) and were lowest at institutions that were the least selective (i.e., those that had open admissions policies). For example, at 4-year institutions with open admissions policies, 32 percent of students completed a bachelor’s degree within 6 years. At 4-year institutions where the acceptance rate was less than 25 percent of applicants, the 6-year graduation rate was 88 percent.

Bill Gates: US college dropout rates are ‘tragic’
Over 44 million Americans collectively hold more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt and only 54.8 percent of students graduate in six years. This means that millions of Americans are taking on thousands of dollars in debt without a diploma to show for it.

some schools try to keep their graduation rates high by denying at-risk students and privileging wealthy students in the admissions process

Only about half of all Texas students graduate from college within six years

“Students can get tunnel vision about going to a certain school. … They will take on huge debt and have cheerleaders the whole time saying go straight to this university,” Tillett said.

Are College Graduation Rates Important?

Many schools with the highest graduation rates are also the colleges with the most selective, elite standards. They only accept exceptional, high-performing students, so understandably, more of those students graduate. It doesn’t mean the college is better per se; it just means those students were going to graduate at any college, because they were driven anyway.

It’s worth remembering Selingo’s warning: choosing a college based on graduation rate is like buying a car based on its safety ratings: it’s “just one measure of many.” Sure, it tells you something about the college, but don’t let it rule your choices, especially if you’re a non-traditional student. Educate yourself fully about any college you’re considering – not just graduation rates, but all of the factors that go into making an education worth your investment.