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Time to degree

Question:
How long does it take students at colleges and universities to complete their bachelor's degrees?

Response:

The 1990 Student Right-to-Know Act requires postsecondary institutions to report the percentage of students who complete their program within 150 percent of the normal time for completion (e.g., within 6 years for students pursuing a bachelorís degree). The graduation rates in this Fast Fact are based on this measure. Students who transfer without completing a degree are counted as noncompleters in the calculation of these rates regardless of whether they complete a degree at another institution.

The 6-year graduation rate (150 percent graduation rate) for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelorís degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2010 was 60 percent. That is, by 2016 some 60 percent of students had completed a bachelorís degree at the same institution where they started in 2010. The 6-year graduation rate was 59 percent at public institutions, 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 26 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 63 percent for females and 57 percent for males; it was higher for females than for males at both public (62 vs. 56 percent) and private nonprofit (68 vs. 63 percent) institutions. However, at private for-profit institutions, males had a higher 6-year graduation rate than females (28 vs. 23 percent).

Between 2011 and 2016, the overall 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelorís degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions increased by 1 percentage point, from 59 percent (for students who began their studies in 2005 and graduated within 6 years) to 60 percent (for students who began their studies in 2010 and graduated within 6 years). During this period, 6-year graduation rates were higher in 2016 than in 2011 at public institutions (59 vs. 57 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (66 vs. 65 percent), but lower in 2016 than in 2011 at private for-profit institutions (26 vs. 29 percent). In addition, the 6-year graduation rate was 2 percentage points higher in 2016 (63 percent) than in 2011 (61 percent) for females and was 1 percentage point higher in 2016 (57 percent) than in 2011 (56 percent) for males.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Condition of Education 2018 (NCES 2018-144), Undergraduate Retention and Graduation Rates.

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