2 in 5 students who attend college fail to get a degree from the college at which they began within 6 years.

college degree graduation pic from smemon87

(pic from flickr user smemon87)

This scary statistic is based on data from the U.S. Government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). According to the NCES, 42.7% of students did not get a bachelor’s degree from the college at which they began within 6 years.

While the rates vary farily heavily by sector, they are alarming nonetheless. See the below chart for the all students cohort graduation rates.

Total Public Private 
All students        
4-year rate 36.2 29.4 50.9 18.6
5-year rate 52.6 49.1 61.6 22.4
6-year rate 57.3 55.0 64.4 24.5

(data from National Center for Education Statistics)

Interesting notes:

  • Across all sectors, there’s a significant jump in attainment from year 4 to year 5.
  • 60% of women graduate within 6 years, while only 54.2% of men do (see the full chart).
  • For each yearly rate, women have a higher attainment percentage than men in both the public and private not-for-profit sectors. However, women trail men in each yearly rate for degree attainment in the private for-profit sector (see the full chart).

It is unclear if most parents are aware that cohort graduation rates are so low. When seeing these numbers for the first time, they can be rather unsettling if one thinks about his/her student’s probable college success. That discomfort may be exacerbated when one considers the potential residual effects that not completing college can have on future employment and the financial investment in college.

Over the next week, I’ll be blogging on some key factors that lead to college withdrawal and failure to persist to a degree. With regard to this information, the more you know about why students withdraw, the more you can prepare and strategize to minimze the risk to your child’s education, your financial investment in school, and your child’s future.


You can find more interesting studies and statistics in the Research and Insights section of the College Parents of America website.