Indicators

Institutional Retention and Graduation Rates for Undergraduate Students
(Last Updated: May 2015)

About 59 percent of students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2007 completed that degree within 6 years. The graduation rate for females (62 percent) was higher than the rate for males (56 percent).


Figure 1. Percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduates retained at 2- and 4-year degree-granting institutions, by institution level, control of institution, and acceptance rate: 2012 to 2013

Figure 1. Percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduates retained at 2- and 4-year degree-granting institutions, by institution level, control of institution, and acceptance rate: 2012 to 2013

† Not applicable.
1 Includes open admissions, all percentages of applicants accepted, and information not available.
NOTE: Degree-granting institutions grant associate's or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Retained first-time undergraduates are those who returned to the institutions 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 2014, Enrollment component; and Fall 2012, Institutional Characteristics component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 326.30.


In terms of student retention among first-time, full-time students who enrolled at 4-year degree-granting institutions in 2012, about 80 percent returned the following fall (in 2013). At public 4-year institutions, the overall retention rate was 80 percent, with a range from 60 percent at the least selective institutions (those with open admissions) to 95 percent at the most selective institutions (those that accept less than 25 percent of applicants). Retention rates for first-time students at private nonprofit 4-year institutions followed a similar pattern: the overall retention rate was 81 percent, ranging from 64 percent at the least selective institutions to 97 percent at the most selective. The overall retention rate for first-time students at private for-profit 4-year institutions was 53 percent, with rates varying across institution selectivity levels. At 2-year institutions, the total retention rate for first-time students was 60 percent; it was highest at private for-profit institutions (68 percent), followed by public institutions and private nonprofit institutions (both 59 percent).

The graduation rates in this indicator are calculated to meet requirements of the 1990 Student Right-to-Know Act, which requires postsecondary institutions to report the percentage of students who complete their program within 150 percent of the normal time for completion (within 6 years for students pursuing a bachelor's degree). Students who transfer and complete a degree at another institution are not included as completers in these rates.


Figure 2. Graduation rate (within 6 years) from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by control of institution and sex: Cohort entry year 2007

Figure 2. Graduation rate (within 6 years) from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by control of institution and sex: Cohort entry year 2007

NOTE: Data are for 4-year degree-granting postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Graduation rates refer to students receiving bachelor's degrees from their initial institution of attendance only.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2014, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 326.10.


The 2013 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2007 was 59 percent. That is, 59 percent of first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2007 completed the degree at that institution by 2013.

Among first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree- granting institution in fall 2007, the 6-year graduation rate was 58 percent at public institutions, 65 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 32 percent at private for-profit institutions. The 6-year graduation rate was 56 percent for males and 62 percent for females; it was higher for females than for males at both public (60 vs. 55 percent) and private nonprofit institutions (68 vs. 62 percent). However, at private for-profit institutions males had a higher graduation rate than females (36 vs. 28 percent).


Figure 3. Graduation rate (within 6 years) from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by acceptance rate of institution: Cohort entry year 2007

Figure 3. Graduation rate (within 6 years) from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by acceptance rate of institution: Cohort entry year 2007

NOTE: Data are for 4-year degree-granting postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Graduation rates refer to students receiving bachelor's degrees from their initial institutions of attendance only.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2014, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 326.10.


Six-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time students who began seeking a bachelor's degree in fall 2007 varied according to institutions' 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, 34 percent of students completed a bachelor's 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 89 percent.

Between 2008 and 2013, 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 2 percentage points, from 57 percent (for students who began their studies in 2002 and graduated within 6 years) to 59 percent (for students who began their studies in 2007 and graduated within 6 years). During this period, 6-year graduation rates increased at public institutions (from 55 percent to 58 percent) and private for-profit institutions (from 22 percent to 32 percent), but did not change significantly for private nonprofit institutions (around 65 percent). Also during this period, 6-year graduation rates increased for both males (from 54 percent to 56 percent) and females (from 60 percent to 62 percent).


Figure 4. Graduation rate from first institution attended within 150 percent of normal time for first-time, full-time degree/ certificate-seeking students at 2-year postsecondary institutions, by control of institution and sex: Cohort entry year 2010

Figure 4. Graduation rate from first institution attended within 150 percent of normal time for first-time, full-time degree/ certificate-seeking students at 2-year postsecondary institutions, by control of institution and sex: Cohort entry year 2010

NOTE: Data are for 2-year degree-granting postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Graduation rates refer to students receiving associate's degrees or certificates from their initial institutions of attendance only. An example of completing a credential within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so is taking 3 years to complete a 2-year degree.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2014, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 326.20.


At 2-year degree-granting institutions, 29 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a certificate or associate's degree in fall 2010 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 to complete a 2-year degree). This graduation rate was 20 percent at public 2-year institutions, 54 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 public, private nonprofit, and private for-profit 2-year institutions, the completion rate was higher for females than for males. At private nonprofit 2-year institutions, for example, 58 percent of females versus 46 percent of males completed a certificate or associate's 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)