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Retention rates measure the percentage of first-time students who return to the institution to continue their studies the following fall.
The overall graduation rate is also known as the "Student Right to Know" or IPEDS graduation rate. It tracks the progress of students who began their studies as full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students to see if they complete a degree or other award such as a certificate within 150% of "normal time" for completing the program in which they are enrolled.
Some institutions also report a transfer-out rate, which is the percentage of the full-time, first-time students who transferred to another institution.
Note that not all students at the institution are tracked for these rates. Students who have already attended another postsecondary institution, or who began their studies on a part-time basis, are not tracked for this rate.
Graduation rates can be measured over different lengths of time. "Normal time" is the typical amount of time it takes full-time students to complete their program. For example, the "normal" amount of time for many associate's degree programs is 2 years. Not all students complete within the normal time, so graduation rates are measured by other lengths of time as well, including "150% of normal time" (e.g., 3 years for a 2-year program) and "200% of normal time," or twice as long as the normal time (e.g., 4 years for a 2-year program).