415 Colleges with at least 50% Acceptance Rates and 50% Graduation Rates

Woman with computer list of 50-50 collegesI’ve finally finished updating my list of 50-50 colleges. There’s nothing sophisticated about the 50-50 list, it’s simply a list of all colleges and universities that accept at least 50% of students and have at least a 50% graduation rate. That means that these are schools most students could get into and have a good chance of graduating as well.

I said it’s not sophisticated but there are a few important qualifications. First, it’s not actually a list of 50-50 colleges. More precisely, it is a 49-49 list since I include colleges that actually hit 49%, not just 50%. I do this as an acknowledgement of the imperfection when dealing with any such numbers. I still call it my 50-50 colleges because, well, it’s my list and I think it sounds better than 49-49.

The second important qualification is that I use the four-year graduation rate for private colleges and the five-year graduation for public institutions. My reasoning is that if necessary, you could afford an extra year at a public school to graduate because of the lower tuition although you would be missing out a year of working. There’s no excuse for an extra year at a private school which can cost as much as two to four times a public school.

Engineering Colleges

Colleges with large engineering programs suffer under this definition since many engineering schools have cooperative programs. And then there’s the fact that although engineering is technically a four-year degree, it often takes students five years to complete because the number and sequence of required courses.

For the curious, there are 23 private colleges that have 10% or more of their graduates in engineering majors and have less than a 49% graduation rate. All but five of these schools have a 50% or better five-year graduation rate.

Data Source

One final requirement for the list is that the school must have 500 or more full-time undergraduates. The data are from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) which is not the same data used by the US News College Rankings or the College Board.

Changes in 50-50 Colleges

This year out of 1,587 public and private colleges with 500 or more full-time undergraduates, 415 met the 50-50 requirements. That’s an increase of 10 from last year. A total of 61 schools were added this year and 51 were dropped. Of the schools added, 41 hadn’t qualified as 50-50 colleges in the previous two years.

As usual, some of the additions were the result of reporting data that was missing before. Five of the schools had 0 or no reported graduation rate last year but this year had one. Two schools were dropped because of missing data this year, including Wabash college which didn’t have an acceptance rate listed in IPEDS.

Among the colleges added this year, 47 joined the list because of improved graduation rates and the following 10 had increased their acceptance rates to over 49%:

  • Reed College
  • Flagler College-St Augustine
  • University of San Diego
  • SUNY Oneonta
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Central Florida
  • Villanova University
  • Ramapo College of New Jersey
  • Simmons College
  • SUNY College at Oswego

The following seven schools dropped from the list because the acceptance rates fell below 49%:

  • Bryan College-Dayton
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • Denison University
  • Boston University
  • Millsaps College
  • College of Saint Elizabeth


Being a 50-50 schools doesn’t say anything about the affordability of a school or availability of financial aid. The average net price for the 265 private 50-50 colleges ranged from a low of $12,434 to a high of $41,310. Forty-nine private schools have average net prices of $30,000 or greater, making them unlikely candidates for merit or need-based aid.

Thirty-three of the schools qualify for the Education Trust’s Low Access Colleges because less than 17% of freshman receive Pell Grants. This includes nine public universities. Another 106 colleges have 10% or more of freshman taking out non-federal loans averaging $10,000 or more. If that rate keeps up for all four-years, that’s an additional $40,000 in loans on top of any federal loans the students may also have.

Over a quarter of the schools on the list provide 90% or more of freshman with average institutional grants of $15,000 or more, making them good candidates for merit aid. There are 70 schools where the average net price for the lowest income category is $10,000 or less, which should make them a priority for students requiring need-based aid. Unfortunately, only four of them are private schools.

You can get a PDF copy of the 50-50 listing here. If you already receive the DIY College Rankings newsletter, you’ll find a download link in the newsletter. The PDF lists the colleges by state along with the graduation rates, test scores, and acceptance rates. The data are compiled from the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet which you learn more about here.

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