Graduation Rate: Is it Important When I’m Looking at Colleges?

Many important metrics should be considered when applying to colleges and universities, and the graduation rate is among the key indicators of a school’s overall quality and success. Even so, the percentage of students who follow through and graduate at a given school is not the only way to measure the quality of a potential institution of higher education. Students who are deciding between the top-choice schools should consider more than just the number of students who eventually receive a diploma. In addition to this key rate, there are other factors to consider when fully evaluating the school’s quality and its commitment to students.

Graduation Statistics: An Important Metric

Though it is not the only way to measure a school’s quality and success, looking at the percentage of students who receive a diploma after four or six years at a given school can paint quite a picture of its quality. After all, if the number is low, this indicates that many students either transferred to other schools or simply dropped out of the program without finishing their degree at all. Both things are cause for concern: Generally speaking, students only transfer or leave schools if they are significantly dissatisfied with its academic programs, social life, or administrative quality. These three factors are the ones that students must primarily concern themselves with when looking at any college or university. This makes the rate of graduation a crucial factor, but not the only one, when choosing a college. Be sure to consider other metrics as well.

Retention Rate: A Way to Check and Verify Graduation Statistics

Like the percentage of students who receive a degree, the retention rate at America’s colleges and universities must be reported to the Department of Education and shared with students and their parents. The retention rate differs slightly from the graduation rate, however. This metric focuses on the number of first-year students who returned to the school on at least a part-time basis for a second year. If this number is high, it indicates that freshman students were pleased with their first year’s experiences and they likely wish to finish their degree at the school. A low retention rate, however, indicates the opposite: The school may be doing a poor job of educating its students and involving them in campus life. As a result, many transferred to other institutions where they felt they would be happier or receive a better value for the price of tuition.

Accreditations and Student Reviews: Less Quantitative, More Qualitative

Finally, don’t dismiss qualitative measures of a school’s performance. Beyond the raw statistics provided about each school by the US Department of Education, prospective students can learn a lot about an institution by judging student reviews of the school online. Beyond student reviews, the school’s accreditations can help provide insight into its overall quality and reputation. Regional accreditation is required, of course, but students should also look for professional and programmatic accreditations associated with key majors like business, nursing, psychology, public relations, and public affairs. A seal of approval by the most prestigious accrediting bodies within these fields will certainly give the school a boost in terms of academic quality and the likelihood of professional success after graduation.

There are Many Factors to Consider When Choosing a College

Colleges and universities vary greatly in size, location, value, and overall quality. Students should make sure that every dollar of their tuition goes toward a quality program that involves them professionally, stimulates them academically, and values them socially. When researching colleges, the reported graduation rate is just one of many important ways to measure the school’s quality and success.