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Institutional Retention and Graduation Rates for Undergraduate Students
(Last Updated: May 2014)

About 59 percent of first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelorís degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2006 completed that degree within 6 years. The graduation rate for females (61 percent) was higher than the rate for males (56 percent).


Figure 1. Annual full-time student retention rates at 2- and 4-year degree-granting institutions, by institution level, institutional applicant acceptance rate, and control: 2012

Figure 1. Annual full-time student retention rates at 2- and 4-year degree-granting institutions, by institution level, institutional applicant acceptance rate, and control: 2012

† Not applicable.
1 All acceptance rates includes open admissions, all percentages of applicants accepted, and information not available.
NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associateís or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The retention rate is the percentage of first-time degree-seeking students who return to the institution to continue their studies the following fall.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2013, Enrollment component; and Fall 2011, Institutional Characteristics component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 326.30.


In terms of student retention among first-time, full-time students that enrolled at 4-year degree-granting institutions in 2011, about 79 percent returned the following fall (in 2012). At public 4-year institutions, the retention rate was 79 percent, with a range of 61 percent at the least selective institutions (those with open admissions) to 95 percent at the most selective institutions (those where less than 25 percent of students are accepted). Retention rates for private nonprofit 4-year institutions followed a similar pattern: the overall retention rate was 80 percent, ranging from 63 percent at the least selective institutions to 96 percent at the most selective. The overall retention rate at private for-profit 4-year institutions was 51 percent, with fluctuation in rates across institution selectivity levels. At 2-year institutions overall, the retention rate was 59 percent. The retention rate for 2-year institutions was highest at private for-profit institutions (66 percent), followed by private nonprofit institutions (60 percent) and public institutions (58 percent).

The 2012 graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelorís degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2006 was 59 percent. That is, 59 percent of first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelorís degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2006 completed the degree at that institution within 6 years. Graduation rates are calculated to meet requirements of the 1990 Student Right to Know Act, which required postsecondary institutions to report the percentage of students that complete their program within 150 percent of the normal time for completion, which is within 6 years for students pursuing a bachelorís degree. Students who transfer and complete a degree at another institution are not included as completers in these rates.


Figure 2. Percentage of students seeking a bachelorís degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelorís degree within 6 years, by control of institution and sex: Starting cohort year 2006

Figure 2. Percentage of students seeking a bachelorís degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelorís degree within 6 years, by control of institution and sex: Starting cohort year 2006

NOTE: Data are for 4-year postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Graduation rates apply to first-time, full-time undergraduates seeking a bachelorís or equivalent degree. Students who transferred to another institution and graduated are not counted as completers at their initial institution.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2013, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 326.10.


Among first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelorís degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2006, the 6-year graduation rate was 57 percent at public institutions, 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 32 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 56 percent for males and 61 percent for females; it was higher for females than for males at both public (60 vs. 54 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (68 vs. 63 percent). However, at private for-profit institutions males had a higher graduation rate than females (35 vs. 28 percent).


Figure 3. Percentage of students seeking a bachelorís degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelorís degree within 6 years, by institutional applicant acceptance rate: Starting cohort year 2006

Figure 3. Percentage of students seeking a bachelorís degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelorís degree within 6 years, by institutional applicant acceptance rate: Starting cohort year 2006

NOTE: Data are for 4-year postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. The graduation rate is the percentage of first-time, full-time bachelorís degree-seeking students who completed their degree from their initial institution within 6 years. Students who transferred to another institution and graduated are not counted as completers at their initial institution.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2013, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 326.10.


Differences in 6-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelorís degree in fall 2006 varied according to institutionsí level of selectivity. In particular, graduation rates were highest at postsecondary degree-granting institutions that were the most selective (i.e., had the lowest admissions acceptance rates), and graduation rates were lowest at institutions that were the least selective (i.e., had open admissions policies). For example, at 4-year institutions with open admissions policies, 33 percent of students completed a bachelorís degree within 6 years. At 4-year institutions where the acceptance rate was less than 25 percent of applicants, the 6-year graduation rate was 86 percent.


Figure 4. Percentage of students seeking a certificate or degree at 2-year degree-granting institutions who completed a credential within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so, by control of institution and sex: Starting cohort year 2009

Figure 4. Percentage of students seeking a certificate or degree at 2-year degree-granting institutions who completed a credential within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so, by control of institution and sex: Starting cohort year 2009

NOTE: Data are for 2-year degree-granting postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Graduation rates refer to first-time, full-time students receiving associateís degrees or certificates from their initial institution of attendance only. An example of completing a credential within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so is taking 3 years for a 2-year degree. Students who transferred to another institution and graduated are not counted as completers at their initial institution.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2013, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2013, table 326.20.


At 2-year degree-granting institutions, 31 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a certificate or associateís degree in fall 2009 attained it within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so. An example of completing a credential within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so is taking 3 years for a 2-year degree. This graduation rate was 20 percent at public 2-year institutions, 62 percent at private nonprofit 2-year institutions, and 63 percent at private for-profit 2-year institutions. At 2-year institutions overall, as well as at each type of 2-year institution, the completion rate was higher for females than for males. At private nonprofit 2-year institutions, for example, 67 percent of females versus 54 percent of males completed a certificate or associateís degree within 150 percent of the normal time required.


Glossary terms: Associate's degree, Bachelor's degree, Full-time enrollment, Higher education institutions, Part-time enrollment, Private institution, Public school or institution
Data source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Survey (IPEDS)


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education