ANALYSIS: Graduation Rates Fall at One-Third of 4-Year Colleges

SORTABLE TABLES: Graduation Rates Over Time, by Type of Institution:
Public Research | Private Research | Public Master's | Private Master's | Private Baccalaureate Arts & Sciences


We compare here the graduation rates at four-year colleges for the six years ending in 2008 with the rates for the six years ending in 2003. Because rates can spike up or down in a particular year, we also show a separate comparison that tends to reduce the effect of those outliers on differences in colleges' rates over time. To make this comparison, we averaged each college's rates in 2003 and 2008 with rates in the immediately preceeding years, then compared the averages. To further illustrate changes over time at each college, we show in boldface type any rate that increased over the one in the immediately preceeding year. Figures are rounded. About These Data

** Change in averaged graduation rates: the difference, in percentage points, of the average of the rates for 2001 and 2002 compared with the average of the rates for 2007 and 2008.

Institution Change in percentage points, 2003-8 Change in averaged graduation rates** Change in admissions selectivity 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Clark Atlanta U 14 13 none 31% 31% 34% n/a 40% 44% 45%
Trevecca Nazarene U 13 15 more 30% 37% 39% 40% 48% 48% 50%
Stevens Inst of Tech 13 12 more 65% 66% 75% 72% 73% 76% 79%
Yeshiva U 10 3 less 88% 72% 55% 81% 66% 84% 83%
Adelphi U 10 12 more 48% 53% 53% 54% 61% 63% 64%
Northeastern U 10 10 more 56% 60% 60% 61% 65% 66% 70%
U of La Verne 10 11 none 47% 50% 47% 52% 51% 59% 60%
U of Miami 9 10 none 65% 67% 71% 71% 73% 76% 77%
U of Hartford 8 4 none 55% 52% 53% 56% 51% 54% 60%
U of Tulsa 8 4 more 63% 55% 60% 61% 61% 63% 63%
U of Southern California 7 8 more 76% 81% 82% 83% 84% 85% 88%
Vanderbilt U 6 6 more 84% 83% 86% 88% 89% 91% 89%
Biola U 6 7 more 63% 64% 62% 69% 67% 71% 70%
Carnegie Mellon U 6 5 none 82% 81% 85% 86% 86% 87% 87%
Brigham Young U 6 6 none 71% 74% 70% 70% 78% 78% 79%
Clarkson U 6 5 none 66% 64% 64% 71% 70% 70% 70%
George Washington U 6 5 none 73% 75% 79% 78% 79% 78% 81%
New York U 6 6 more 78% 79% 80% 83% 84% 84% 84%
Azusa Pacific U 6 7 more 55% 57% 62% 86% 56% 65% 63%
U of Rochester 6 3 none 81% 78% 81% 80% 80% 81% 84%
Clark U 5 5 more 71% 68% 69% 70% 72% 76% 73%
Drexel U 5 6 none 57% 57% 57% 60% 60% 64% 62%
Brandeis U 5 4 more 85% 84% 89% 88% 88% 89% 89%
U of Chicago 5 3 none 89% 87% 87% 91% 89% 90% 92%
Boston U 5 6 more 75% 75% 75% 77% 81% 82% 80%
Florida Inst of Tech 5 4 none 53% 54% 54% 52% 57% 56% 59%
Washington U in St. Louis 4 4 more 89% 89% 92% 91% 91% 92% 94%
American U 4 6 none 66% 71% 73% 71% 71% 73% 76%
Andrews U 4 5 none 48% 53% 38% 51% 57% 54% 57%
Texas Christian U 4 5 less 64% 65% 67% 69% 68% 69% 69%
Oral Roberts U 4 2 less 52% 50% 54% 54% 55% 52% 54%
Samford U 4 2 none 67% 73% 68% 70% 71% 67% 77%
U of Denver 4 5 none 69% 71% 69% 70% 72% 74% 74%
Trinity International U 4 4 none 43% 48% 52% 37% 61% 47% 52%
U of San Diego 4 5 more 67% 72% 73% 73% 75% 74% 75%
Saint Louis U 3 3 none 72% 71% 74% 75% 75% 74% 74%
Pacific U 3 6 less 53% 64% 65% 64% 59% 63% 67%
U of Pennsylvania 3 3 none 92% 92% 94% 94% 94% 95% 95%
Worcester Polytechnic Inst 3 2 none 74% 77% 79% 74% 75% 76% 79%
Southern Methodist U 3 2 more 70% 72% 71% 71% 74% 71% 74%
Rice U 3 1 none 92% 90% 91% 90% 93% 90% 93%
Case Western Reserve U 3 4 more 76% 78% 81% 77% 78% 81% 80%
Baylor U 2 1 none 72% 70% 72% 72% 74% 72% 73%
New School 2 7 n/a 50% 59% 61% 57% 60% 62% 61%
Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst 2 3 none 78% 81% 81% 81% 82% 82% 83%
Catholic U of America 2 6 none 65% 69% 73% 70% 68% 75% 71%
Pepperdine U 2 3 none 75% 80% 77% 80% 79% 79% 81%
Tufts U 2 1 none 88% 90% 91% 90% 92% 89% 92%
Duke U 1 1 none 93% 94% 94% 93% 94% 94% 95%
Illinois Inst of Tech 1 6 none 56% 62% 61% 69% 68% 67% 64%
Johns Hopkins U 1 2 none 88% 88% 88% 88% 92% 90% 89%
Massachusetts Inst of Tech 1 2 none 91% 92% 92% 94% 93% 93% 94%
Yale U 1 1 none 95% 96% 96% 96% 96% 96% 97%
Boston C 1 3 none 87% 89% 89% 91% 91% 91% 91%
U of Notre Dame 1 1 none 95% 95% 96% 95% 96% 95% 96%
Seton Hall U 1 1 less 56% 59% 57% 56% 58% 57% 61%
Cornell U 1 2 none 88% 92% 92% 93% 92% 92% 93%
Long Island U-C.W. Post Campus 1 3 none 37% 40% 36% 43% 47% 42% 41%
Wake Forest U 1 2 none 87% 87% 86% 88% 88% 89% 88%
U of San Francisco 1 -1 none 67% 66% 66% 67% 65% 65% 67%
Tulane U 1 2 none 73% 74% 73% 73% 71% 76% 74%
California Inst of Tech 0 2 none 86% 88% 89% 90% 89% 89% 88%
Columbia U 0 1 none 92% 92% 93% 92% 93% 93% 93%
Northwestern U 0 0 none 93% 93% 92% 93% 93% 93% 94%
Stanford U 0 2 none 93% 94% 95% 94% 95% 95% 94%
Georgetown U 0 0 none 94% 93% 93% 93% 94% 93% 93%
Marquette U 0 0 less 76% 76% 77% 80% 78% 75% 76%
Dartmouth C 0 -1 none 95% 95% 95% 93% 94% 93% 95%
U of the Pacific 0 -1 more 69% 68% 70% 65% 68% 67% 68%
DePaul U 0 0 none 63% 64% 61% 63% 64% 62% 64%
Harvard U 0 -1 none 98% 98% 98% 98% 98% 97% 98%
Howard U 0 6 none 58% 65% 60% 67% 67% 69% 65%
Fordham U 0 3 none 73% 79% 77% 78% 78% 80% 78%
Duquesne U 0 1 less 70% 72% 69% 68% 70% 72% 72%
Princeton U 0 -1 none 97% 97% 97% 97% 96% 95% 96%
U of Bridgeport -1 2 none 36% 41% 51% 34% 43% 42% 41%
Lehigh U -1 0 more 83% 86% 84% 85% 86% 83% 85%
Pace U New York Campus -1 0 none 52% 56% 59% 56% 56% 53% 55%
U of Dayton -1 0 more 76% 76% 74% 79% 77% 76% 75%
Syracuse U -1 2 none 77% 81% 79% 79% 82% 82% 80%
Brown U -1 -1 none 95% 96% 96% 95% 94% 95% 94%
Loyola U Chicago -1 -3 none 70% 68% 65% 67% 70% 65% 66%
Polytechnic Inst of New York U -2 -2 more 50% 55% 43% 45% 50% 47% 53%
Hofstra U -2 -1 none 55% 56% 51% 55% 56% 53% 54%
Saint Mary's U of Minnesota -3 -6 none 62% 60% 58% 65% 61% 53% 57%
Widener U -3 -6 none 60% 59% 60% 57% 60% 52% 56%
St. John's U -4 -6 none 69% 64% 66% 64% 59% 61% 61%
Emory U -4 -2 more 88% 91% 86% 91% 87% 88% 87%
U of Saint Thomas -4 -1 more 70% 76% 71% 74% 74% 72% 72%
George Fox U -4 0 more 59% 66% 61% 59% 66% 62% 62%
Nova Southeastern U -6 0 none 40% 47% 42% 39% 42% 46% 41%
Wilmington U -8 -13 none 53% 47% 49% 38% 45% 35% 39%
Spalding U -13 -14 more 40% 46% 49% 49% 29% 24% 33%
Barry U -16 -10 less 44% 57% 39% 50% 34% 39% 41%
Immaculata U -18 0 less 50% 65% 53% 60% 56% 67% 47%
Alliant International U-San Diego -19 -16 n/a 34% 30% 88% 34% 45% 20% 11%
Golden Gate U * -27 -12 less 47% 37% 6% n/a 50% 50% 10%

* Institution enrolled relatively few students (50 or fewer in 2002) who met the federal government's criteria (like full-time attendance) to be counted in the graduation rate for the six-year period ending in 2008. In some cases, those students may represent a small minority of all students enrolled at the institution. A college's graduation rates can rise or fall significantly over time because of small year-to-year variations in the number of such students who enroll and complete degrees.

About These Data

The Chronicle analyzed changes in graduation rates reported by more than 1,000, four-year public and private nonprofit colleges and universities. We examined only institutions classified as research, master's, or Baccalaureate Colleges—Arts & Sciences by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2005.

These rates, which colleges report annually to the U.S. Education Department, are calculated as the percentage of all first-time, full-time students entering in the fall seeking bachelor's degrees who completed bachelor's degrees within six years. At some institutions, this definition excludes a significant number of students, for example, those enrolled part time.

The column labels showing a single year -- 2002 through 2008 -- refer to the final year of six-year periods. The six-year period ending in 2008 was the most recent for which comprehensive data were available from the Education Department when The Chronicle published these tables. The six-year period ending in 2002 was the first for which all colleges participating in federal-aid programs were required to report the data to the Education Department. Figures are rounded.

In these tables, we compare rates for the six years ending in 2008 against rates from five years earlier, in 2003.

A college's graduation rate sometimes spikes up or down in a particular year. To account for such fluctuations, The Chronicle also averaged the graduation rates for 2002 and 2003 and compared those sums with the averages of the 2007 and 2008 rates. That approach yielded results similar to those shown when only 2003 and 2008 were compared.

Colleges typically describe their graduation rates using a similar but slightly different set of data, which includes students who completed any degree program, such as associate degrees. The Education Department recommends examining only students seeking bachelor's degrees when comparing four-year institutions because it facilitates consistent comparisons and because producing bachelor's recipients is a core mission of those institutions.

The Chronicle's analysis recognizes that a college's graduation rate may rise if its admissions become more selective. Greater selectivity typically brings more academically prepared students, who in turn are more likely to complete degrees within six years. Conversely, graduation rates can slip when institutions become less selective. We labeled institutions that became more or less selective during the period covered by these graduation rates. The source was Barron's Profile of American Colleges, which assigns colleges among seven tiers of selectivity. We recorded whether a college changed tiers from 1996-7 to 2001-2.

Other changes in student demographics could also have increased how each institution's rate changed over time, and this analysis did not further account for those effects.