What Are the Chances of Graduating In Four Years?

As I mentioned yesterday, most teenagers don’t know how to truly evaluate colleges and universities.

Finding the right academic fit, however, is crucial, which is why this week I’m going to be sharing my favorite tools to research colleges.

Today I’m focusing on CollegeResults.org.

CollegeResults.org, which you’ll find on the Education Trust’s website, provides the four-, five- and six-year graduation rates of colleges and universities across the country.

Most families don’t realize that the grad rates they see in college publications are invariably SIX year figures, but I don’t know any parent who wants their kid to linger for 12 semesters.

At CollegeResults.org, you can plug in the name of any school and obtain the four-year rate. Equally handy, you can instruct the software to compare any school’s grad track record with its peers. You don’t have to know who the peers are, the software will produce the list.

I’m going to use the University of Missouri in Columbia, my alma mater, as an example. Mizzou’s six-year grad rate is 67.2% and it’s four-year rate is 41%. Both sound mediocre, but it’s helpful to compare those stats with its peers schools.

Here are four-year grad rates of some of Mizzou’s flagship peers:

  • University of Delaware              63.9%
  • University of Connecticut          54.1%
  • Indiana University                      50.3%
  • University of Massachusetts     49.3%
  • University of Colorado               40.6%
  • University of Minnesota            36.9%
  • Iowa State University                 31.9%
  • University of Nebraska               22.6%   

The state institution with the highest four-year grad rate that I’ve been able to find is the University of Virginia — 84.2%. The next closest that I’ve spotted is the University of North Carolina at 70.9% and the University of Michigan — 70.4%.

To give you some perspective, 28% of students who attend state schools graduate in four years.

As far as I can tell, the private schools with the best four-year grad rates are the following:

  • Georgetown University: 90.4%
  • Princeton University: 88.8%
  • Harvard University: 88.5%
  • University of Pennsylvania: 87.1%
  • Yale University: 87%

When I first started researching grad rates –particularly at state schools — I was shocked. Obviously, the costs of attending a school for six years is much higher even though parents plan for four years. Here’s the bottom line: If you haven’t been looking at four-year grad rates when evaluating schools, start now and you’ll potentially save yourself a lot of money.

Further reading on college graduation rates:

Terrible Six-Year Grad Rates.

March Madness and University Graduation Rates.

Paying for College in Hard Times.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she writes another college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.com.

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