graduation and retention rate meanings

Why graduation and retention rates matter

As you search for your ideal school to attend, you are probably considering factors like academic standards, extracurricular activities offered, dorm room options, and tuition. However, you may not have checked into the college completion rate and college retention rates of schools you’re interested in. Statistics are likely available for any school that you are looking at, so you can easily search for things like, “private school retention rates.”

Not sure why those rates matter? Here’s what they mean, and why you should consider them as you choose a school.

What do graduation and retention rates mean, anyway?

It’s important to know the graduation and retention rate meaning so that you can accurately compare colleges and universities. Graduation rate is the amount of First Time in College (FTIC) students that enter a fall term and complete a Bachelor’s Degree within 4-6 years. Retention rate is the amount of students in an entering fall undergraduate FTIC group that return the following fall.

So, why is it worth it to look at graduation and retention rates when you’re considering a school?

When a college or university has high graduation or retention rates, it indicates a few good qualities of the school. Graduation and retention rates are an indicator of both how well students are succeeding and the university’s commitment to student success. Retention rates give you the quick, shorter-term view of success while graduation rates give you the long-term view of success.

As a student, you want to go to college to learn and earn a degree, so taking a look at how many new students continue after the first year and ultimately complete their degree can give you insight into the quality of education received, the quality of service provided, and the amount of support available to students throughout the college program.

Tips to remember as you compare college retention rates

Compare institutions that are alike.

Each type of institution performs differently based on a variety of factors. It’s important to keep those factors in mind when evaluating a school. For example, a two-year institution and a four-year institution may have a very different graduation rate, but it may not be accurate to compare the two, since they are very different institutions. It’s best to compare a college to the average rate of similar type colleges or the national average.

don’t be afraid to Ask an admissions counselor

Feel free to ask your admissions counselor if you have questions about why a college completion rate or student retention rate is lower than you had hoped. There are a variety of reasons why colleges perform above or below average, so be sure to have a conversation either way. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to know the full story just by looking at the numbers.

Remember that transfer numbers are not always included

Keep in mind that there are more students graduating from an institution than the graduation rate may suggest. Students that transfer to the institution are not often reported in those numbers, although they may graduate from the institution.

Need help with your college decision?

Download this free, helpful college decision worksheet to evaluate your options.

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