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The Importance of College Retention and Graduation Rates

April 27, 2011

There are many factors that influence the cost of college degree – annual tuition fees, living expenses, travel expenses, books and offsetting financial aid and/or scholarships. One of the hidden costs is how long a student spends in college: if a 4-year degree takes 5 or 6 years that’s extra years of expense and the opportunity cost of not being full-time employed (or getting a head start on grad school). Another impact of low first-year retention rates and/or low 4-year graduation rates is a lessened ability to create a close-knit community of students and friends that stick together through college. College retention and graduation rates are another factor to consider when looking at colleges.

Below is a summary of first year retention rates and 4-year graduation rates for select Bay Area, California and out-of-state colleges (both public and private). It is important to note that these are aggregate measures for each college and that these statistics could vary materially by program, or by college within a university. Ask the college admissions officer for more granular statistics specific to the major you are considering.

Bay Area 4-Year Colleges Type

First Year Retention Rate

Four Year
Graduation Rate

St. Mary’s College of California Private

81%

50%

UC – Berkeley Public

96%

66%

Stanford University Private

98%

79%

San Francisco State University Public

76%

12%

San Jose State University Public

80%

9%

Santa Clara University Private

93%

78%

CSU – East Bay Public

75%

17%

California College of the Arts Private

73%

27%

Mills College Private

74%

53%

First year retention rates and four year graduation rates of additional colleges outside the Bay area:

Select 4-Year Colleges (California) Type

First Year Retention Rate

Four Year
Graduation Rate

California Institute of Technology Private

98%

73%

Chapman University Private

87%

53%

California Institute of the Arts Private

78%

53%

Pepperdine University Private

89%

73%

CalPoly – San Luis Obispo Public

90%

25%

San Diego State University Public

82%

29%

Thomas Aquinas College Private

85%

71%

UC – Davis Public

90%

51%

UC – Irvine Public

94%

58%

UC – Los Angeles Public

97%

67%

University of Southern California Private

 

 

Premier Out of State 4-Year Colleges Type

First Year Retention Rate

Four Year
Graduation Rate

Harvard University Private

97%

88%

Princeton University Private

98%

90%

Yale University Private

99%

90%

M.I.T. Private

98%

83%

Columbia University Private

98%

87%

Source: US News and World Report College Rankings

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