WU’s graduation rate far higher than average, but some schools lag

| Staff Reporter

Each year as seniors in colleges and universities across the country prepare for the ceremony that puts a closure to their university careers, a little less than half of those will not graduate with their peers, according to a recent report.

The report was released by the American Enterprise Institute and found that four-year colleges and universities nationwide graduated an average of just 53 percent of entering students within six years, and “rates below 50%, 40% and even 30% are distressingly easy to find.” These statistics were compiled based on the information provided by more than 1,400 higher-education schools countrywide to the U.S. Education Department.

“I do think that many students and their families pay attention to graduation rates,” said Julie Shimabukuro, the director of undergraduate admissions. “Students want to know if they will have a high-quality education, that they will be able to enroll in the courses that they need to graduate, and that the college or university cares about the experience of its undergraduate students.”

Among the list of schools, Washington University has a graduation rate of 92 percent, and is tied at 26th with four other schools, including Cornell University and Wellesley College.

“When I applied to college, I have to admit that graduation rate was not one of the top things that I looked at to compare schools,” sophomore Stephanie Poindexter said. “However, knowing that Wash. U. has such a high graduation rate, especially compared to other similarly competitive schools, I definitely am sure that I have chosen to come to the right school.”

In comparison, Harvard University has a graduation rate of 97 percent. Amherst College and Yale University both have a rate of 96 percent. Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a rate of 93 percent. Rice University, University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University all have a rate of 90 percent. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Southern University at New Orleans and Colorado Christian University graduate a mere 8 percent of their students within six years.

“I am very glad that WU’s graduation rate is so high,” Shimabukuro said. “I am a Washington University graduate, and I know that these factors were very important to me and my family when I was selecting a college to attend.”

Poindexter attributes the University’s high graduation rate to the availability of resources for students.

“I think Wash. U. having such a high graduation rate is partly because of all the resources available to students,” Poindexter said. “I have at least four different advisers helping me to plan my academic career here at Wash. U. and to apply to professional schools. This school is very committed to ensuring that all of its students are well taken care of academically.”

Senior Nick Hansing is participating in a combined BS/MS program and completed an internship during the fall semester. He will be staying for three semesters past his fellow seniors, but will graduate with both degrees.

“I used fall semester to get some industry experience,” Hansing said. “I wanted to see what a real life engineering job was like and see if that was what I wanted to do. I’ve effectively been working in my first job for eight months. I’ll use it as sort of a basis for what I do when I graduate. I’ll use it for comparison.”

The report pointed to a “dramatic variation” among schools with similar admissions standards, suggesting that certain schools might be more efficient in educating comparable students. For example, Amherst College and Reed College both belong to the most competitive tier. Yet they have disparate graduation rates of 96 percent versus 76 percent, respectively.

“While student motivation, finances and ability matter greatly when it comes to college completion, the practices of higher education institutions matter, too,” lead author Frederick Hess said.

  • Dan

    You should make sure to check the facts again. I am a graduate of both Wash U. and Colorado Christian University. The numbers, which you cite, were erroneously given to the dept. of higher ed in Colorado. The number has since been corrected and is reflected in an updated report. I would ask that you remove CCU from the article. Thank you.

    Also, you may note that CCU’s freshmen rentention rate is among the highest in the west: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/masters-west-freshmen-least-most-likely-return

  • DenChen

    One thing to be noted about comparing graduation rates between colleges. WUSTL offers many 5-year or combined BS/MS degree programs (as the one student in the article is doing).

    There are a number of reasons why it is valuable to offer such programs.

    Other schools do not offer them to enhance their bottom-line performance of gradudation rates — which is a key measure in US NEWS rankings methodoligies. “Sure, everyone graduates in 4 years because we don’t offer any programs that take longer than 4 years and we also give unlimited AP credit so you can even finish in 3 years!”

    Before anyone compares graduation rates from college to college, it is wise to compare the programs that they offer. Excluding BS/MS and other 5-year programs that WUSTL and some other colleges offer, how many students then graduate in 4 years? For WUSTL, I’d imagine it would likely be somwhere around 97%.

  • Gavin

    To be honest, this seems like a huge Wash-U advertisement. Yeah…it’s a good school, but this sort of “more holier than thou” portrayal just doesn’t seem relevant to most people. Furthermore, it would be much more useful to talk about what actually factors into these numbers – rather than just touting “the resources available to students.”

    To put it concisely, as a reader, I fail to see how this helps anyone.

  • Ron Voss

    Reed, Swarthmore and UChicago are commonly considered to be the most difficult colleges, but higher numerical credentials are required to gain entrance to Amherst. So it seems natural that students with higher credentials and a lighter workload would graduate at higher rates. E.g.:

    http://web.reed.edu/ir/cds/cds0910/cdssecc200910.html
    https://www.amherst.edu/media/view/169038/original/2009%20First-Time%2C%20First-Year%20%28Freshman%29%20Admission.pdf