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
San Diego State U 17 18 none 38% 44% 46% 53% 58% 56% 61%
George Mason U 12 11 none 49% 49% 53% 53% 56% 58% 61%
Georgia State U 12 12 less 35% 32% 41% 40% 41% 47% 44%
Temple U 12 12 none 47% 54% 54% 57% 59% 59% 65%
U of Pittsburgh main campus 12 12 more 63% 65% 67% 70% 73% 75% 76%
U of Minnesota-Twin Cities 11 10 none 54% 54% 56% 61% 61% 63% 66%
U of Maryland, College Park 11 11 less 69% 71% 73% 77% 79% 80% 82%
Utah State U 11 0 n/a 56% 42% 45% 47% 48% 45% 53%
Illinois State U 11 9 none 57% 59% 62% 63% 64% 65% 70%
U of Louisville 11 11 less 33% 35% 33% 37% 41% 44% 46%
Texas Woman's U 11 6 none 39% 35% 42% 35% 39% 41% 46%
Ohio State U 11 12 more 59% 62% 62% 68% 71% 71% 73%
Ball State U 11 11 more 47% 49% 52% 54% 57% 58% 59%
U of Louisiana, Lafayette 11 11 more 30% 30% 32% 39% 40% 41% 40%
U of Central Florida 9 9 none 50% 54% 55% 57% 58% 59% 63%
U of Arkansas, Fayetteville 9 11 more 46% 48% 53% 56% 56% 58% 58%
Indiana U-Purdue U, Indianapolis 9 10 more 21% 23% 22% 26% 27% 31% 32%
U of Massachusetts, Lowell 8 4 more 44% 42% 46% 46% 46% 44% 51%
North Carolina State U 8 7 none 64% 63% 67% 71% 70% 70% 72%
Georgia Southern U 8 8 none 36% 37% 38% 41% 43% 45% 45%
U of California, Santa Barbara 8 8 none 71% 74% 75% 79% 78% 80% 81%
U of Oklahoma, Norman 8 8 none 53% 52% 55% 55% 57% 61% 60%
Georgia Inst of Tech 8 9 less 68% 69% 72% 76% 77% 78% 77%
U of Missouri, St. Louis 8 8 none 36% 38% 45% 43% 42% 43% 46%
Rutgers U, Newark 8 8 none 49% 51% 54% 58% 57% 57% 59%
Clemson U 7 7 none 72% 72% 72% 75% 75% 78% 79%
U of Texas, Austin 7 7 none 71% 71% 74% 75% 77% 78% 78%
Virginia Commonwealth U 7 7 none 39% 42% 40% 43% 45% 47% 49%
Washington State U 7 4 none 62% 60% 60% 63% 60% 63% 67%
New Jersey Inst of Tech 7 6 more 47% 49% 53% 54% 54% 51% 55%
Old Dominion U 7 7 more 41% 42% 46% 48% 49% 49% 49%
Florida State U 7 6 more 63% 63% 65% 66% 68% 69% 70%
U of North Texas 7 6 none 38% 39% 40% 43% 45% 44% 45%
U of Georgia 7 7 less 70% 71% 72% 73% 75% 77% 78%
U of Connecticut 7 6 none 69% 70% 71% 72% 74% 75% 76%
U of Cincinnati main campus 7 5 less 49% 48% 48% 49% 52% 52% 55%
U of Washington 6 6 none 70% 71% 73% 74% 75% 75% 77%
U of California, Santa Cruz 6 4 none 67% 65% 69% 70% 70% 68% 72%
Purdue U, West Lafayette 6 6 more 64% 66% 64% 66% 70% 69% 72%
U of Oregon 6 7 none 58% 60% 62% 63% 63% 65% 66%
Michigan State U 6 6 more 69% 69% 71% 74% 74% 74% 75%
U of West Florida 6 7 none 39% 38% 41% 42% 42% 48% 44%
Jackson State U 6 3 less 35% 37% 40% 38% 35% 36% 43%
U of South Carolina, Columbia 6 4 more 60% 61% 64% 65% 63% 63% 67%
U of Wisconsin, Madison 6 5 less 75% 76% 76% 77% 78% 79% 81%
U of Delaware 5 5 none 72% 74% 76% 76% 76% 78% 80%
U of Texas, El Paso 5 5 none 25% 26% 27% 28% 29% 29% 31%
Central Michigan U 5 7 none 47% 52% 55% 55% 57% 57% 57%
Texas A&M U, Kingsville 5 5 none 26% 22% 27% 28% 32% 30% 27%
U of Massachusetts, Amherst 5 6 more 61% 64% 62% 66% 66% 67% 69%
SUNY, Stony Brook 5 5 none 54% 56% 58% 59% 59% 59% 61%
U at Buffalo 5 6 none 54% 57% 60% 59% 61% 61% 62%
Wichita State U 5 5 more 37% 34% 37% 37% 36% 42% 38%
U of Maryland-Baltimore County 5 6 none 53% 55% 55% 58% 56% 61% 59%
U of Memphis 5 3 none 34% 33% 36% 33% 34% 34% 38%
U of Florida 5 5 none 77% 77% 78% 79% 79% 81% 82%
Indiana State U 4 4 none 37% 39% 40% 39% 41% 41% 43%
Virginia Tech 4 4 less 74% 74% 74% 76% 79% 78% 78%
U of Nebraska, Lincoln 4 7 none 54% 59% 62% 63% 62% 63% 64%
U of California, Berkeley 4 4 more 84% 85% 87% 87% 89% 88% 90%
Florida Atlantic U 4 2 none 38% 35% 37% 37% 37% 38% 39%
Arizona State U, Tempe 4 4 less 52% 52% 55% 55% 56% 56% 56%
U of Toledo main campus 4 3 none 43% 42% 45% 42% 44% 45% 46%
Montana State U, Bozeman 4 5 none 41% 44% 47% 47% 50% 48% 48%
Michigan Tech U 4 1 none 64% 61% 63% 59% 61% 64% 65%
U of Alabama, Huntsville 4 6 less 37% 44% 45% 44% 44% 44% 48%
Texas Tech U 4 4 none 52% 54% 54% 55% 56% 56% 57%
East Tennessee State U 4 4 none 34% 38% 38% 39% 40% 38% 42%
U of Idaho 3 3 none 51% 53% 54% 57% 54% 53% 57%
Texas A&M U, College Station 3 3 none 75% 75% 76% 77% 77% 78% 78%
U of Nevada, Las Vegas 3 3 more 37% 38% 41% 41% 39% 41% 41%
U of Michigan, Ann Arbor 3 3 none 84% 85% 87% 86% 87% 88% 88%
U of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 3 2 less 40% 39% 37% 42% 43% 41% 42%
Wright State U, Dayton 3 4 none 37% 40% 41% 41% 43% 43% 43%
Louisiana State U, Baton Rouge 3 2 more 57% 56% 56% 57% 57% 58% 59%
U of Northern Colorado 3 2 none 47% 47% 45% 46% 49% 48% 50%
U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 3 3 none 80% 83% 81% 84% 84% 83% 86%
U of Arkansas, Little Rock 3 0 less 22% 18% 26% 21% 24% 19% 21%
U of Illinois, Chicago 3 4 more 44% 46% 45% 50% 51% 50% 48%
U of Alaska, Fairbanks 3 -2 less 37% 24% 25% 22% 29% 31% 27%
Wayne State U 3 1 none 34% 31% 32% 33% 36% 32% 34%
U of Missouri, Columbia 3 2 more 65% 66% 68% 66% 69% 67% 69%
U of California, Los Angeles 3 4 more 85% 87% 87% 87% 89% 90% 89%
U of Arizona 2 2 less 55% 55% 57% 59% 56% 56% 57%
Mississippi State U 2 2 less 56% 57% 58% 56% 58% 58% 60%
Rutgers U, New Brunswick 2 2 n/a 72% 72% 71% 71% 73% 73% 75%
U of California, Irvine 2 3 less 76% 79% 80% 80% 79% 80% 81%
Colorado Sch of Mines 2 5 none 59% 66% 67% 67% 68% 67% 68%
U of California, San Diego 2 3 more 81% 83% 83% 85% 86% 84% 85%
U of North Carolina, Greensboro 2 2 none 48% 50% 50% 51% 52% 50% 53%
Penn State, U Park 2 3 less 80% 82% 83% 84% 85% 84% 85%
U of New Mexico, Albuquerque 2 1 none 44% 42% 40% 41% 42% 44% 44%
U of Texas, Dallas 2 3 none 52% 57% 56% 56% 55% 55% 59%
U of Rhode Island 2 1 none 58% 56% 57% 56% 57% 58% 58%
SUNY C of Environmental Science and Forestry 2 -1 less 71% 69% 65% 63% 62% 66% 71%
Southern Illinois U, Carbondale 2 5 none 39% 43% 43% 41% 42% 46% 45%
U of Alabama, Tuscaloosa 2 2 more 63% 62% 61% 63% 63% 65% 64%
Kansas State U 2 2 more 55% 56% 63% 56% 59% 58% 58%
U of Kansas 2 2 more 57% 58% 57% 59% 59% 60% 60%
Iowa State U 2 1 more 65% 66% 66% 68% 66% 66% 67%
U of Houston main campus 2 4 none 37% 40% 39% 40% 42% 43% 42%
U of North Carolina, Charlotte 2 3 none 46% 49% 47% 49% 50% 51% 51%
Florida International U 1 3 more 44% 47% 47% 48% 48% 49% 49%
Oklahoma State U, Stillwater 1 2 none 55% 58% 58% 59% 59% 58% 60%
Oregon State U 1 2 more 59% 61% 60% 61% 60% 61% 62%
U of Vermont 1 2 none 70% 70% 67% 65% 67% 72% 71%
U of Alabama, Birmingham 1 1 none 38% 39% 38% 36% 36% 38% 40%
Indiana U, Bloomington 1 2 none 69% 72% 71% 72% 72% 72% 73%
U of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 1 2 none 80% 81% 80% 83% 82% 82% 82%
U of Virginia 1 1 less 92% 92% 92% 93% 92% 93% 93%
Colorado State U, Fort Collins 1 0 less 63% 62% 64% 63% 64% 62% 63%
Missouri U of Science and Tech 1 3 less 55% 60% 64% 64% 63% 61% 61%
U of Tennessee, Knoxville 1 0 none 58% 59% 59% 57% 60% 58% 60%
C of William and Mary 1 1 none 91% 90% 89% 91% 91% 91% 91%
Northern Arizona U 1 2 none 46% 52% 50% 48% 47% 48% 53%
East Carolina U 1 0 none 54% 54% 53% 54% 56% 54% 54%
Portland State U 0 1 none 33% 33% 34% 35% 37% 35% 34%
Miami U, Oxford 0 0 less 81% 80% 80% 80% 81% 80% 81%
U of North Dakota 0 2 more 49% 54% 54% 56% 53% 54% 54%
U of New Hampshire, Durham 0 1 none 72% 73% 72% 73% 74% 74% 73%
Indiana U of Pa 0 1 none 49% 51% 50% 47% 49% 51% 51%
U of California, Davis 0 1 none 78% 81% 81% 80% 81% 79% 81%
Texas A&M U, Commerce 0 2 none 34% 36% 38% 34% 35% 38% 36%
U of Nevada, Reno 0 0 none 47% 48% 49% 52% 49% 46% 48%
Kent State U main campus 0 2 more 46% 49% 49% 46% 47% 51% 49%
U of California, Riverside 0 0 none 66% 64% 64% 65% 64% 66% 64%
New Mexico State U, Las Cruces 0 -1 none 46% 43% 43% 42% 37% 45% 43%
U of Utah 0 4 none 49% 51% 48% 43% 46% 56% 51%
Oakland U 0 2 none 41% 44% 47% 45% 44% 44% 44%
U of Mississippi 0 -2 none 57% 56% 54% 56% 56% 53% 56%
U of Texas, Arlington 0 0 none 36% 37% 38% 40% 42% 37% 36%
Ohio U, Athens -1 0 less 70% 70% 70% 71% 71% 70% 70%
West Virginia U, Morgantown -1 -1 none 56% 56% 54% 54% 55% 55% 56%
U of Maine, Orono -1 2 none 54% 60% 56% 53% 59% 59% 59%
Cleveland State U -1 3 none 24% 27% 27% 30% 31% 31% 26%
South Dakota State U -1 -1 more 55% 53% 55% 54% 54% 54% 53%
U of Massachusetts, Boston -1 -1 none 35% 34% 28% 35% 36% 33% 33%
Western Michigan U -1 0 none 53% 56% 55% 54% 54% 54% 55%
U of South Florida -1 1 less 46% 49% 47% 48% 49% 49% 48%
U of Colorado, Boulder -1 0 none 67% 68% 66% 66% 66% 67% 67%
U of New Orleans -1 0 none 22% 24% 25% 24% 25% 24% 22%
Northern Illinois U -2 0 none 51% 53% 51% 53% 48% 52% 51%
Binghamton U -2 -2 none 79% 80% 78% 77% 78% 77% 78%
SUNY, Albany -2 0 none 62% 66% 63% 62% 63% 64% 64%
University of Colorado Denver (Health Sciences Program) -2 -4 none 44% 39% 39% 42% 36% 39% 37%
U of Colorado, Denver and Health Sciences Ctr -2 -4 none 44% 39% 39% 42% 36% 39% 37%
U of Southern Mississippi -3 -3 less 51% 46% 48% 46% 46% 48% 43%
U of South Dakota -3 0 more 43% 50% 43% 46% 49% 47% 46%
U of Hawaii-Manoa -3 -1 none 53% 54% 56% 51% 51% 55% 51%
U of Kentucky -3 0 none 58% 61% 60% 60% 59% 61% 58%
Auburn U main campus -3 -4 none 68% 68% 65% 62% 63% 63% 64%
South Carolina State U -4 -5 none 51% 49% 53% 47% 54% 45% 45%
Florida A&M U -4 -4 none 43% 45% 46% 45% 42% 39% 41%
U of Wyoming -4 -1 less 54% 57% 56% 58% 56% 57% 53%
Louisiana Tech U -5 -6 more 55% 52% 51% 49% 49% 48% 48%
U of Montana, Missoula -5 -4 none 43% 45% 44% 44% 42% 41% 40%
U of Missouri, Kansas City -6 -4 none 45% 41% 44% 46% 45% 43% 35%
Idaho State U 9 4 none 21% 22% 21% 21% 27% 20% 32%
North Dakota State U -6 -4 more 48% 53% 52% 55% 51% 47% 47%
North Carolina A&T State U -6 -3 less 40% 44% 43% 40% 38% 41% 38%
U of Akron main campus -7 -5 none 36% 40% 35% 35% 37% 34% 33%
Bowling Green State U main campus -7 -5 none 60% 65% 60% 60% 60% 57% 58%
Morgan State U -7 -4 less 38% 39% 39% 42% 40% 38% 32%
Tennessee State U -9 -8 more 47% 45% 44% 44% 40% 40% 36%

The entry for Idaho State University was updated on December 20, 2010, to include revised data submitted by the university to the U.S. Education Department.

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.