The Four-Year Graduation Rate Scandal

Whenever I talk to other parents about college, there’s one higher-ed statistic that almost always makes them gasp in disbelief:

The four-year graduation rates at state universities.

Most parents have no clue about how few students graduate from state universities in the traditional eight semesters. According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, only 28% of students at public institutions earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.

That’s shocking, but in some states, such as California, the figures are even grimmer. Here’s some four-year graduation rates for a few of the schools out here: San Francisco State (11%), California State University, Los Angeles (10.6%), and San Jose State (6.7%).

It’s hideous statistics like these that should make any parent want to research schools carefully. A great resource that I use to find four-year graduation rates is the Education Trust’s College Results Online tool.

Families and college counselors now have another wonderful and convenient resource to research state schools. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges are sponsoring a resource that’s called the College Portrait.

Visitors will find portraits on hundreds of state universities and more will be added in the next few months. Each undergraduate report contains statistics on such things as the freshmen retention rate and whether students ultimately graduate from the school or somewhere else. (You’ll still need the Education Trust for the four-year rates.)

The reports also provide a lot of financial aid statistics. When I looked at the portrait for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, for instance, I discovered that 35% of first-time students received state grants, 16% received federal grants, 35% of first-time students took out student loans and 38% received scholarships.

What I also like about these reports is that they provide some sense of what kind of learning is going on at these institutions. Using results culled from the National Survey of Student Engagement, the reports provide some idea about student satisfaction with the school, the quality of the academic advising, how much homework is required, the helpfulness of professors and much more. At the University of Illinois, for example, 88% of seniors rated their educational experience as either good or excellent.

Check it out!

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  1. I was so pleased to see some one else commenting on the high drop out rate for college students. I would love to know the rate of college graduates that find jobs in their field of study. Parents and students do not look at colleges as a business. I personally believe colleges have a responsibility to provide an education that prepares the student for a life of independence. Professors need to be teaching up to date skills as a preparation and then advisers need to be keeping the students on a time line. Too many students find themselves a year or more behind for graduation. My question is who is advising them? Yes, the students have a responsibility but so does the University. For a FREE eBook “Parenting College Students: 27 Winning Strategies for Success”, go to