Most students enter college assuming a four-year plan. In fact, it never occurs to them, or their parents, that time spent in college could possibly extend beyond four years.
But sometimes life takes over. Students change or add majors, they find themselves retaking classes, or they elect to spend time away from campus for personal reasons or to extend a study abroad opportunity.
And some colleges have built-in co-op programs (paid job experiences) which frequently result in an extra year of undergraduate study.
In other words, there are lots of reasons the four-year plan could easily become a five- or six-year plan.
Still, graduation statistics never fail to produce strong reactions from parents.
According to the most recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the percent of students starting as freshmen in four-year bachelor’s programs who graduate within six years has stood at about 59 percent for the past two years.
And the four-year graduation rate currently stands at about 39 percent, with a disturbing divide between public and private institutions—53 percent of all private school students graduate in four years while only 33 percent of students attending public institutions graduate on average in the same period.
Not surprisingly, the more selective the school, the higher the likelihood of “on-time” graduation Colleges accepting 25 percent or fewer of their applicants had an 85.6 percent average six-year graduation rate (down from 88 percent the previous year), while those accepting between 75 and 90 percent of all applicants posted a 55.9 percent average six-year graduation rate.
Locally, a handful of colleges can boast of 4-year graduation rates higher than 80 percent or well above national averages. These include the U.S. Naval Academy (88%), Georgetown University (88%), Johns Hopkins University (88%), the University of Virginia (86%), Washington & Lee (86%), the College of William and Mary (83%), and the University of Richmond (82%).
Thanks to US News, here is a snapshot of the top four-year graduation rates reported by nonprofit institutions:
- Olin College of Engineering, MA: 93%
- Pomona College, CA: 93%
- Haverford College, PA: 91%
- Amherst College, MA: 90%
- Carleton College, MN: 90%
- Davidson College, NC: 90%
- Hamilton College, NY: 90%
- University of Notre Dame, IN: 90%
- Vassar College, NY: 90%
- Williams College, MA: 90%
- Yale University, CT: 90%
- Bates College, ME: 89%
- Boston College, MA: 89%
- Colby College, ME: 89%
- College of the Holy Cross, MA: 89%
- Swarthmore College, PA: 89%
- Bowdoin College, ME: 88%
- Columbia University, NY: 88%
- Georgetown University, DC: 88%
- Johns Hopkins University, MD: 88%
- Princeton University, NJ: 88%
- US Coast Guard Academy, CT: 88%
- US Naval Academy, MD: 88%
- University of Chicago, IL: 88%
- University of Pennsylvania, PA: 88%
- Washington University, MO: 88%