Perhaps you’ve seen some variation of this headline recently: “Most colleges students don’t graduate on time.” And maybe you’ve thought, “What’s the deal with college students these days?” and just left it at that. But what if the headline was “Most colleges fail to graduate students in 4 years?” Who are you thinking about now, the college or the student?
If you’ve spent any time on my website, you know this is something that I think about-a lot. Since colleges, unlike any other organization that receives government money except for military contractors, aren’t held accountable for their results. This means that families need to take graduation rates into consideration when selecting colleges.
After all, if you don’t graduate, it doesn’t matter how great of a match the college is.
Think about this-the expectation is that the average full-time college student isn’t going to graduate in four-years. And it’s not really surprising given that out of over 1,500 four-year colleges with 500 or more full-time undergraduates, only 579 (37%) have graduation rates of 49% or better (4-year rate for private schools, 5-year rate for public).
Fortunately, some of these institutions are large universities which explains why 50% of all undergraduates actually attend a college with a 49% or better graduation rate. However, in 25 states less than half of all students attend a college with a 49% or better graduation rate. In six states, none of the students attend such schools because they don’t exist in those states.
In some states, the majority of the students attending colleges with higher graduation rates are at institutions that admit less half of all applicants. In California, 49% of full-time undergraduates attend institutions with a 49% or better graduation rate but only 13% attend such a school that also admits more than half of their applicants. 57% of students in New York are at schools with graduation rates of 49% or better but only 26% of them are at schools with a 49% or better admission rate.
In these states, if you can’t get into a competitive school, your chances of attending a school that graduates most of its students drops significantly.
Some would argue that such a situation is inevitable since more competitive schools are taking better prepared students. I’m sure that’s true to a certain extent. Yet, 48% of students in Ohio are attending schools with a high graduation rate and accept at least half of their students. Only 4% are at schools that don’t accept at least half of all applicants.
I realize that not all colleges can graduate the majority of their students because of the qualifications of the students they admit. In some cases, a 25% graduation rate is a major accomplishment depending on the students.
But over half of all colleges fail to graduate a majority of their students–not just those with low-income, first generation, or under-represented students. On what basis do they justify admitting the students and taking their money?
Just because the government continues to fund colleges without regard to their effectiveness doesn’t mean that individual families should. Of course, not all families have a choice where they can send their students to college. But if they do, why shouldn’t they consider graduation rates?
The following table show the number of colleges and full-time undergraduates in each state. 50-50 schools are those that admit at least 49% of students and have at least a 49% graduation rate. Any 50 schools are those that have at least a 49% graduation rate and any admission rate. The four-year graduation rate is used for private schools and the five-year rate for public.
Availability/Attendance of Colleges with High Graduation Rates by State
|Any 50 |
|Any 50 |
% of all
|% of |
|District of Columbia||1||13||4||50||8||9||72|