Graduation Rates

Just 57 percent of bachelor’s degree students graduate within six years of entering school. At two-year institutions, graduation rates for certificates or associate’s degrees hover around 40 percent. Learn more about our Graduation Rates work.

Just 57 percent of bachelor’s degree students graduate within six years of entering school. At two-year institutions, graduation rates for certificates or associate’s degrees hover around 40 percent. And the figures in both cases are worse for minority students. Students who fail to graduate fail to earn many of the benefits associated with a college degree and often can be left with significant amounts of debt and no credential. When these students do fail out, the consensus is to blame them because they are legal adults to be held responsible for their shortcomings.

We seek to reframe and refocus the debate on graduation rates. The higher education sector's size and diversity lead to wide variance among instructors, departments, and institutions in terms of success. Inevitably, some will be much better than others. By publicizing that excellence, we draw implicit contrasts with other, less successful providers, and we provide concrete lessons for them to follow. We also emphasize the efficacy of higher education, the idea that student success and failure depend on more than the contributions of the students themselves. And because excellence in helping students often does not fall along traditional status lines, we challenge traditional, elite-oriented ways of seeing the higher education world.