28 Useful Facts and Stats About College Graduation Rates

The main goal for most new college students is graduation since college graduates are less likely to be unemployed. However, not everyone fulfills this aim. On average, it takes college students nearly six years to earn a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college.

College graduation rates can tell you a lot about public and private institutions, the reasons why students drop out, student graduate demographics, etc.

It’s of the utmost importance to know such information. It can be valuable if you’re a student, graduate, or just thinking about enrolling in college. These stats will certainly help you gain a clear insight into the importance of education and getting a degree.

Top Stats and Facts About College Graduation Rate (Editor’s Pick)

  • 5.3% of students graduate within eight years
  • The state with the lowest graduation rate is Arizona
  • The six-year graduation rate for students of public universities and colleges is 57.6%
  • The percentage of females who graduate in four years is 45%
  • 36% of male millennials have at least a bachelor’s degree
  • 40% of college students drop out before they get an undergraduate degree
    and only 11% of low-income students graduate within six years
  • Between 40 and 60% of college starters take remedial classes in maths, English, or both

Average College Graduation Rates — General Stats

1. There is an 83.6% graduation rate for four-year, full-time public starters.

(NSC Research Center)

There is a steady growth in the college graduation rates for two-year and four-year institutions. The NSC Research Center Report shows an 83.6% graduation rate for full-time, four-year public starters. As for the two-year starters, the percentage reached 39.4%, whereas the four-year rate increased to 67.8%.

2. 33.8% of all graduates end up underemployed.

(Inside Highered)

According to one of the latest studies on college graduation rates and employment, 41% of recent college graduates are underemployed (which means they work in jobs that don’t require college degrees). Furthermore, almost 34% of all college graduates are underemployed.

3. 5.3% of students graduate within eight years.

(American Progress)

Center for American Progress researched graduation rates and discovered some interesting statistics. The new statistics show that an additional 5.3% of college students earn a degree within eight years.

4. College pricing rose much slower from 2013/14 to 2018/19 than it did during the previous five years.

(College Board)

The average graduation price rate for college tripled from 1988 to 2019 for public four-year institutions. Prices vary by institution and location.

As for public two-year and private nonprofit four-year institutions, the price more than doubled from 1988 to 2019. Before adjusting for inflation, tuition and fees increased less than 4% across all sectors from 2017 to 2019.

5. There will probably be around 20.11 million college students in the US in 2029.


It’s estimated that over 20 million people will enroll in college in 2029 and that the average college graduation rate will be higher. Public colleges have always had more students, as they are much cheaper than private colleges. Approximately 15 million students will probably choose to study in a public school.

6. 59% of US students graduated in 6 years at four-year degree-granting institutions.

(College Raptor)

The national college graduation rate is 59% for four-year institutions. However, students should consider the fact that lower graduation rates don’t always indicate that a school is necessarily bad. It’s important to compare similar institutions.

College Graduation Rate by State, School, and Degree

7. Arizona is the state with the lowest graduation rate.

(Business Insider)

According to the Department of Education data, only 26.3% of students from Arizona managed to graduate in six years for a four-year bachelor’s degree. Right after Arizona is Alaska, with 26.4% of college graduates.

8. 73.5% of college students in Massachusetts graduated in six years.

(Business Insider)

College graduation rate varies across the US, according to the data on graduation rates by state. This state has the highest graduation rate and is considered the most educated state in the US.

Some of the prominent colleges in Massachusetts are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, and Harvard. Rhode Island (71.1%), Washington (71.1%), Iowa (68.5%), and Maryland (68.3%) come after right after Massachusetts.

9. 410,629 people received an associate degree in liberal arts and sciences.


There were around 20 million community college graduates. Community college graduation rates are the highest for liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities. On the contrary, only 195 college graduates received a degree in library science.

10. The six-year graduation rate for students attending public universities and colleges is 57.6%.


The percentage of students from public colleges and universities who graduate in four years is 33.3%. The four-year graduation rate at private universities and colleges stands at 52.8%, while 65.4% of students graduate in six years.

11. 13% of students enrolled in two-year public institutions graduate within two years.

(Community College Review)

Community college graduation rates are relatively low. Only approximately 30% of students of such institutions graduate after four years, and around 60% of students enrolled in four-year institutions graduate after six years.

12. The six-year graduation rate stands at 67% at private nonprofit institutions.


According to the US Department of Education data, 67% of students graduated after six years at public institutions, and 25% at private non-profit institutions. The overall six-year graduation rate was 59% for males and 65% for females.

13. Washington and Lee University had a four-year graduation rate of 92%.

(US News)

Graduation rates by college vary, and the highest rate of graduation has Washington and Lee University. Some other universities with a graduation rate of 90% or higher are Georgetown University, University of Notre Dame (91%), Babson College, Boston College, Princeton University, United States Naval Academy, University of Chicago, and Vanderbilt University (90%).

14. Donnelly College has a four-year graduation rate of 2%

(US News)

This college had the lowest proportion of four-year graduates. Harris-Stowe State University, Northeastern Illinois University, and Georgia Gwinnett College have four-year graduation rates lower than 5%.

College Graduation Rates by Race, Age, Gender, and Ethnicity

15. 45% of women graduate in four years.

(Value Colleges)

There is a significant difference in graduation rate when broken up by gender. The percentage of women who graduate within four years is 45%, and the graduation rate for men is 35%.

Experts who compared the college graduation rates are worried that there is a growing gender gap. However, the six-year graduation rate begins to close that gap.

16. The graduation rate for Black students is 40%


Black college graduation rates are worryingly low. The report published by NCES shows that only about 40% of black students graduate within six years, and 21% graduate after four years.

17. 74% of Asian students graduate within six years.


Asians are the most likely to graduate within four years, as 50% do, and only 6% earn a degree after six years. White students are the second on this list, as 64% of them graduate in six years.

18. Only 8% of Millennials have less than a high school diploma.

(Pew Research)

Research on college graduation rate by Pew Research Center targeted population of different ages and showed that millennials are the generation with the highest college graduates. One in three Millennials has a bachelor’s degree or higher.

19. 32% of Hispanic students graduate after four years.


Hispanic, Black, and Native American students have the lowest graduation rates. These statistics show that there’s still a considerable cultural and racial gap in American society. Hispanic college graduation rates after six years of studying are only 54%.

20. 36% of millennial men have at least a bachelor’s degree.

(Pew Research)

Millennials are better educated than the generations before them. Also, Generation X women are the first to outpace men when education is in question. Furthermore, 43% of millennial women have at least a bachelor’s degree (7% more than millennial men).

21. Females of all ethnicities have more graduation rates than males.


College graduation rates by gender are the same for every ethnicity: female students are more likely to graduate than male students. The most significant difference is between black male and female students. The graduation rate for black female students is 10% higher.

22. Students who start college when they are 20 or older are more likely to drop out.

(Education Data)

College students who enrolled at the age below 20 are the least likely to drop out, along with other students who are older than 30. Meanwhile, the dropout rate is higher for students who enrolled at 21 and above. Other reasons influencing college dropout rates are family obligations, failing courses, and boredom.

Other Relevant and Interesting Stats on US College Graduation Rate

23. 40% of college students give up before obtaining an undergraduate degree.

(Affordable Colleges Online)

Most of these college dropouts leave school after their first year. The main factors for leaving school are life changes, expensive tuition, and challenging courses. However, students can always choose to go back to college and finish it.

24. Low-income students face difficulties, and only 11% of them graduate within six years.

(iGrad Financial Wellness)

Various statistics reveal that low-income students college graduation rates are high, especially for minorities. On top of that, almost 40% of such students have to take student loans. Many college dropouts struggle to pay off student loan debts for the rest of their lives.

25. 30% of community college students successfully transferred to a four-year college.

(Hechinger Report)

Many students choose community colleges because they think they are cheaper. However, four-year institutions often offer more aid than community colleges. Also, only 30% of community college students managed to transfer to a four-year institution. College graduation rates over time haven’t changed much for community colleges.

26. The average age of college graduates who start college at the age of 18 is 23.

(College Economics)

Students who enroll in college at the age of 18 usually graduate when they’re 23. However, the average graduation age for students over 24 is around 32.

27. The NCAA Division I graduation rates are 90%.


According to a study by the NCAA, college athletes graduation rate has never been higher. Division II graduation rates stand at 74%, and Division III at 87%. Male skiers have a graduation rate of 96%.

28. 40 to 60% of college starters take remedial college classes in maths and English.


Higher education experts believe that around 40-60% of college starters need to take remedial college classes in maths and English, or both. Data on college remediation rates revealed that this process only decreases the college completion rate. It increases the time it takes for them to attain a degree, thereby reducing their likelihood to graduate.

College Graduation Rates — Conclusion

Statistics like these are crucial because they help us know the performance level of a school. When considering which institution to attend, the first thing you will have to look at is its graduation rate.

A low number is usually a bad sign. However, although statistics are vital information, they shouldn’t be the only thing to consult before making your final choice. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to choose to study something that genuinely interests you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)