Society and Culture, Education

Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t)

On average, four-year colleges graduate fewer than 60 percent of their freshmen within six years, and at many institutions, graduation rates are far worse. This is one of the findings of a new AEI study released this week that I coauthored, found here.

In the report, we rank colleges and universities according to their graduation rates, as reported to the U.S. Education Department, and their admissions selectivity, as reported in Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. (This method ensures comparisons among like institutions.) And the disparities in graduation rates among institutions with similar admission standards are shocking. For example, James Madison University and the University of Louisville are both public schools ranked “very competitive,” but James Madison manages to graduate 81 percent of its students within six years, while Louisville graduates 44 percent. That is, a student at James Madison has double the odds of graduating than a student at the University of Louisville. This is just one example of many.

My coauthors and I are not arguing that colleges should simply give diplomas to students indiscriminately. However, few parents and even fewer students are aware of these statistics. High school guidance counselors most of all—those who guide student decisions—should make use of these data to help turn high school graduates into college graduates. You can find my presentation and the related report materials here.

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