Terrible Six-Year Graduation Rates

Here’s a grim statistic:  Fewer than 60% of four-year college students graduate in six years.

Of course, noncompetitive schools, which accept nearly all comers, drag down the national graduation rates. For instance, only 18% of students at Mountain State University in Beckley, WV, which accepts all its applicants, graduate in six years. In contrast, 97% of Harvard students have earned their diploma by then.

Big deal, you’re probably thinking. The type of students that each of those institutions attract are dramatically different.  What I find fascinating, however, is how much variation exists in graduation rates between colleges and universities with similar admission standards and similar student bodies.

Here are two examples:

Among the most competitive schools, Stanford University (CA) has a six-year grad rate of 95% versus 78% for George Washington University (DC). Among highly competitive schools, Providence College (RI) has a six-year grad rate of 87% versus 57% for Bennington College (VT).

This wide gulf in six-year college grad rates among higher-ed peers is the subject of a new study by the American Enterprise Institute that’s entitled, Diplomas and Dropouts, Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t).

The AEI researchers compared grads rates among colleges that were divided into these six categories:

•    Noncompetitive colleges
•    Less competitive colleges
•    Competitive colleges
•    Very competitive colleges
•    Highly competitive colleges
•    Most competitive colleges

I’ll leave you with this comment from the authors of the AEI study:

When two colleges that enroll similar students have a graduation rate gap of twenty or thirty percentage points or more, it is fair to ask why. More important, students parents, guidance counselors and taxpayers (who foot the bill for many student costs) all deserve to know which schools graduate most of their students and which graduate only a few.)

Learn more about college strategies by reading The College Solution and visiting my two college blogs at TheCollegeSolutionBlog.com and CBSMoneyWatch.com.

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