Graduation Rates: What Percent Complete a Bachelor's Degree?

  • Graduation rates at Minnesota four-year institutions have been increasing.
  • Statewide in 2012, 44 percent of undergraduates graduated within four years and 63 percent graduated within six years.
While not all undergraduates intend to earn baccalaureate degrees, graduation is still a goal of most students entering four-year colleges and universities. The percent of undergraduates completing a bachelor's degree within four years is not very high and a growing concern within Minnesota and nationally. Most colleges report a six-year graduation rate.

6-year Graduation Rates at Minnesota 4-Year Institutions, 2012

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The graduation rate calculates the number of students entering an institution as full-time, first-time, degree-seeking students in 2006 who completed a bachelor's degree at the same institution by 2012.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Graduation Rate Survey

A national organization, Complete College America, is working with colleges and states to address the lack of college completion by game changing strategies.

Graduation rates measure whether students are completing their studies and institutional effectiveness in facilitating student completion. High graduation rates may indicate appropriately targeted student recruitment, effective campus communication and scheduling, strong instruction and advising, and accessible student support services. Other variables, such as the academic preparation of students, colleges' admissions selectivity, student demographics and financial support, also influence graduation rates.

Graduation Rates at Minnesota Four-Year Institutions

In 2012, 44 percent of Minnesota undergraduates graduated within four years and 63 percent graduated within six years. Overall, the rates have been gradually increasing. Graduation rates vary considerably across institutions since the number of students used in the cohort to track the rate varies with each institution. The six-year graduation rates in 2012 ranged from:

  • a high of 73 percent to a low of 47 percent at the University of Minnesota campuses;
  • a high of 53 percent to a low of 21 percent at Minnesota state universities; and
  • a high of 94 percent to a low of 46 percent at Minnesota private not-for-profit institutions.

Although the highest graduation rates are within the private not-for-profit institution sector, the University of Minnesota campuses have made the greatest strides in increasing their graduation rates.

Minnesota and National Comparisons

Minnesota ranked 15th nationally in four-year (44 percent) and 15th in six-year (63 percent) graduation rates, and was higher than peer states and national averages. Nationally, four-year graduation rates ranged from a high of 56 percent in New Hampshire to a low of 11 percent in Alaska. Six-year graduation rates ranged from a high of 70 percent in Massachusetts to a low of 28 percent in Alaska.

Among peer states, the four-year graduation rate ranged from 50 percent (Pennsylvania) to 33 percent (Wisconsin); the six-year rate ranged from 66 percent (Pennsylvania) to 57 percent (Ohio).

States located in the New England and the mid-Atlantic regions have higher percentages of students enrolled at private not-for-profit four-year institutions compared to public four-year institutions. Private institutions generally have higher graduation rates than public institutions which may explain why eastern states tend to rank higher on this indicator.

About Graduation Rates

The 2012 data reflect the graduation rates of first-time, full-time degree-seeking undergraduates who began at a four-year institution in fall 2006 or at a two-year institution in fall 2009. Only students completing their degree or other award at the same institution were included in the graduation rate. Students who transfer negatively impact an institution's graduation rate. Overall, about 11 percent of all undergraduates statewide transferred each year.

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