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College Graduation Rates, Should You Pay Attention?

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There are a lot of statistics that students and families consider when looking at college admissions. Acceptance rates, test scores, and retention rates are just a few. What about college graduation rates? Let’s think about what graduation rates really mean and whether or not you should consider them in your decision process.

Many families get nervous when they see low four year graduation rates. Why? Cost, of course. No one wants to think that they will be paying extra tuition for additional years for their student’s education. However, I suggest that you dig a little deeper when looking at graduation rates and determine whether or not the graduation rate is a result of personal choices by the students or due to the college itself or most likely – a combination.

There are many personal decisions that may impact graduation rates for students. They may be family related. Maybe a student had to move back closer to home to take care of a loved one. Perhaps the reason is financial and a student needs to take a year off to work or gain residency in-state. Some students take longer to graduate for very good reasons. Students may have the opportunity to complete a combined five year bachelors/masters degree and therefore take longer than four years to graduate but come out with an advanced degree. Students may also complete double degrees during college  (say in engineering and music) or take multiple semesters abroad. There are many personal reasons to consider in this statistic.

In some cases, the low graduation rates are due to the college itself and these are times when you need to ask some serious questions. You may want to ask whether or not the low rate is because students aren’t able to get the classes they need to graduate. Or, are classes being limited due to funding? Is it because of poor academic advising?

So, the answer is yes – graduation rates are worth considering as you look at colleges- as long you understand there is more to consider than just the numbers presented to you. Take your time when it comes to statistics and make sure you are getting the full picture.


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