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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 bachelor's degree). The graduation rates in this 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 for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2009 was 59 percent. That is, 59 percent had completed a bachelor's degree by 2015 at the same institution where they started in 2009. The 6-year graduation rate was 59 percent at public institutions, 66 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 23 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 62 percent for females and 56 percent for males; it was higher for females than for males at both public (61 vs. 55 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (68 vs. 62 percent). However, at private for-profit institutions, males had a higher 6-year graduation rate than females (24 vs. 22 percent).

Between 2010 and 2015, the overall 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions increased by 1 percentage point, from 58 percent (for students who began their studies in 2004 and graduated within 6 years) to 59 percent (for students who began their studies in 2009 and graduated within 6 years). During this period, 6-year graduation rates were higher in 2015 than in 2010 at public institutions (59 vs. 56 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (66 vs. 65 percent), but lower at private for-profit institutions (23 vs. 29 percent). In addition, the 6-year graduation rate for females increased during this period (from 61 percent in 2010 to 62 percent in 2015), while the 6-year graduation rate for males increased by less than 1 percentage point (56 percent in both years).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). The Condition of Education 2017 (NCES 2017-144), Undergraduate Retention and Graduation Rates.

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