In it’s annual report, the Condition of Education 2009, the U.S. Department of Education described graduation rates for American students. The report focused on “traditional” students ages 18-24, and examined some basic factors: Public universities versus private colleges, males versus females, and the timeframes of 4, 5, and 6 years for those who did earn a bachelor’s degree (not counting those who took longer or who left college all together).
For all U.S. students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at both public and private colleges, the Department found that only the minority of them actually graduated on a traditional 4-year track. For both young men and women, only 36% of students who did graduate completed a bachelor’s degree in 4 years. 53% of those who completed a degree took 5 years to finish, while 58% of American students took six years to complete a traditional 4-year bachelor’s degree.
A closer look at college type and student gender found more specific data. The lowest graduation rates were at public universities, with only 24% of young men and 34% of young women completing a bachelor’s degree within 4 years. 45% of young men at public universities took 5 years to graduate, as did 53% of young women. The largest portion of students at public colleges completed graduation within 6 years, with 51% of men and 58% of women completing a bachelor’s degree in that timeframe.
The highest graduation rates in the U.S. were for private, not-for-profit colleges. 46% of young men and 54% of young women earned a bachelor’s degree within the traditional 4-year timeframe. 59% of young men completed a degree within 5 years, and 62% finished in 6 years. For young women, 63% finished within 5 years and 67% completed a bachelor’s degree within 6 years.
In all, the lowest rates of traditional graduation (completing a bachelor’s degree within 4 years) were for young men at public universities. The highest 4-year graduation rates were for young women at non-profit colleges. When looking at the largest segment to complete a college degree, young women at not-for-profit colleges who attended for 6 years earned a bachelor’s degree at a rate of 67%.
For graduation rates on specific colleges, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator website.
Jeffrey Ludovici, M.A., is a national-level higher education consultant based in Pittsburgh. He has worked with students, families, colleges, and other professionals for more than 10 years. He specializes in understanding why students can end up doing poorly in college, as well as what can be done to address the issues.