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Indicator 21: Postsecondary Graduation Rates
(Last Updated: July 2017)

The 6-year graduation rate in 2014 was 60 percent 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 2008. The 6-year graduation rate was highest for Asian students (71 percent) and lowest for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students (41 percent each).

The 1990 Student Right to Know Act requires degree-granting postsecondary institutions to report the percentage of students who complete their program within 150 percent of the normal time for completion, which is 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.

The 6-year graduation rate in 2014 was 60 percent 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 2008. About 40 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2008 received their bachelor's degree within 4 years.


Figure 21.1. Graduation rates from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and time to completion: Starting cohort year 2008

Figure 21.1. Graduation rates from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree-seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and time to completion: Starting cohort year 2008


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. The total includes data for persons whose race/ethnicity was not reported. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2015, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 326.10.


Among students of different racial/ethnic groups, 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 2008 was highest for Asian students (71 percent) and lowest for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students (41 percent each). Less than half of the students in any racial/ethnic group who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2008 graduated within 4 years.


Figure 21.2. Percentage of first-time, full-time students seeking a bachelor's degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelor's degree from the first institution attended within 6 years, by race/ethnicity and sex: Starting cohort year 2008

Figure 21.2. Percentage of first-time, full-time students seeking a bachelor's degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelor's degree from the first institution attended within 6 years, by race/ ethnicity and sex: Starting cohort year 2008


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. The total includes data for persons whose race/ethnicity was not reported. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded estimates.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2015, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 326.10.


Overall, the 6-year graduation rate was higher for females than for males (62 vs. 57 percent); it was also higher for females than for males in each racial/ethnic group, except Pacific Islanders (50 percent each). Aside from Pacific Islanders, the gender gap was narrowest among American Indian/Alaska Native students (43 percent for females vs. 39 percent for males) and widest among Black students (45 percent for females vs. 35 percent for males).


Figure 21.3. Percentage of first-time, full-time students seeking a bachelor's degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelor's degree from the first institution attended within 6 years, by race/ethnicity and control of institution: Starting cohort year 2008

Figure 21.3. Percentage of first-time, full-time students seeking a bachelor's degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelor's degree from the first institution attended within 6 years, by race/ethnicity and control of institution: Starting cohort year 2008


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. The total includes data for persons whose race/ethnicity was not reported. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2015, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 326.10.


Among first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2008, the 6-year graduation rate was 58 percent at public institutions, 65 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 27 percent at private for-profit institutions. At public institutions, the 6-year graduation rates were highest for Asian students (69 percent) and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (40 percent). Private nonprofit institutions had the highest 6-year graduation rates for each racial/ethnic group; Asian students (77 percent) had the highest rates and Black students (45 percent) had the lowest. The 6-year graduation rates for students at private for-profit institutions were lower than those at public and private nonprofit institutions across all racial/ethnic groups, with rates ranging from 19 percent for Black students to 44 percent for Asian students. Less than 50 percent of Black students and American Indian/Alaska Native students graduated within 6 years at any type of 4-year degree-granting institution.


Figure 21.4. Percentage of first-time, full-time students seeking a certificate or degree at 2-year degree-granting institutions who completed an associate's degree or certificate from the first institution attended within 3 years, by race/ethnicity and control of institution: Starting cohort year 2011

Figure 21.4. Percentage of first-time, full-time students seeking a certificate or degree at 2-year degree-granting institutions who completed an associate's degree or certificate from the first institution attended within 3 years, by race/ethnicity and control of institution: Starting cohort year 2011


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. Students who transferred to another institution before receiving an associate's degree or certificate are not counted as graduates. The total includes data for persons whose race/ethnicity was not reported. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2015, Graduation Rates component. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 326.20.


At 2-year degree-granting institutions, the percentage of full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a certificate or associate's degree in fall 2011 and attained it within 3 years—that is, within 150 percent of the normal time for completion—was 28 percent. This rate varied considerably by control of the institution and race/ethnicity. The 3-year graduation rate was 20 percent at public institutions, 51 percent at private nonprofit institutions, and 58 percent at private for-profit institutions.

The 3-year graduation rate in 2014 for first-time, full- time students at public 2-year institutions was highest for Asian students (28 percent) and lowest for Black students (10 percent); graduation rates ranged from 14 to 23 percent for students in the other racial/ethnic groups. At private nonprofit 2-year institutions, the 3-year graduation rate was highest for Hispanic students (58 percent) and lowest for American Indian/Alaska Native students (22 percent). The graduation rates at private for-profit 2-year institutions were higher than the rates at public or private nonprofit 2-year institutions for all racial/ethnic groups; they ranged from 66 percent for Asian students to 48 percent for Black students.

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