The 10 Lowest College Graduation Rates in D.C., Md. and Va.

Published on December 13, 2011
by The Washington Post in Graduation Rates, Higher Education

Excerpt from Daniel de Vise's article.

Is there such a thing as an unacceptably low college graduation rate?

There is seemingly universal agreement in higher education that college completion rates aren’t high enough. Yet it’s difficult to find anyone pointing fingers at a particular college. Lawmakers lament the low graduation rates of students who receive federal Pell grants, the largest source of federal student aid to low-income students. Yet to criticize a college with a large Pell student population and a miniscule graduation rate is thought to be bad form.

Washington Monthly magazine and the Education Sector nonprofit broke the silence last year with a report on collegiate “dropout factories,” ranking the colleges with the lowest completion rates and spotlighting a Chicago college campus whose graduation rate pales by comparison to that of the Chicago Public Schools.

“Show me a city with a high-school dropout factory and I will show you a college in the same city with an even lower graduation rate,” said Kevin Carey, an Education Sector researcher who has studied graduation rates at length. “Apparently there’s no number so low that it automatically triggers loss of accreditation. There’s no number so low that it causes state leaders to consider shutting an institution down.”

I spent some time this fall looking at the bottom of the grad-rate chart in the Washington region. The research spawned a story on Coppin State University, a historically black campus in Baltimore that is working hard to turn around its low completion rate.

In this notebook-emptying post, I want to spotlight the other colleges in the District, Maryland and Virginia with unusually low completion rates. My analysis drew the line at 33 percent — a graduation rate of one third. Here are 10 schools that fell short of that bar.

The analysis looks at an average of graduation rates for three years, 2007 through 2009. It’s a comparatively generous six-year rate, meaning that the tally gives every student six years to finish a four-year degree. The analysis is limited to schools that reported graduation data to the feds...