Skip to main content

Three ways of looking at graduation rates, 2020

 A lot has been made of graduation rates at America's colleges and universities.  Some point to what they see as rates that are too low, while others think that high graduation rates are a testament to something happening inside the college.

And I, of course, think graduation rates are mostly inputs, rather than outputs.  If your admissions process simply takes the most capable children of wealthy, college-educated parents, it's almost a certainty your graduation rates will be higher.  If you take more risks in admitting students--either by mission or economic necessity--your graduation rates are going to be lower.

But there is still some interesting stuff in the IPEDS data.  A few caveats about this data:

First, I've started the views showing only traditional doctoral, master's and baccalaureate institutions.  Other types, which tend to be smaller, have noisier data.  You can look at them if you wish by using the Carnegie rollups, region, and control filters along the top.

Second, the four-, five- and six-year rates here are from consecutive years, not from the same cohort.  So it's technically possible that the four-year rate from 2016, for instance, could be a bit higher than the five-year rate from 2015.  But these numbers are largely stable over time, so the chances of that are probably slim.

Finally, on some of the displays, there are a lot of colleges that report grad rates of zero from some groups (a college in Alabama, for instance, might not enroll any Asian/Pacific Islander students in a given year, so there is no data to report.)  Because of that noise, I've changed the axis to start at 5%.  There could be some colleges that report 3% or 4% grad rates, but not many.  If so, you won't see them here.

If you find Higher Ed Data Stories useful in your work, you can support it by buying me a coffee. Just click here to do so, unless you're a high school counselor, or you work at a CBO that focuses on low-income students.  You should always use this resource free of guilt and cost. 

The views: The first view shows six-year graduation rates using rough approximations of student financial need. Notice, if you will, how the orange point is almost always lower on the scale than the purple point.  That shows the difference between Pell students and those who get no federal aid (which does not mean they're wealthy, of course).  Extrapolate from that as you might.  The pink point shows students with no Pell but Stafford loans, and the gold point shows the overall six-year grad rate for all students.

The second tab shows six-year rates by ethnicity.  It's a little messier than I like my visualizations to be, but there is a point there, too: Notice the spreads.  Use the highlight control to focus on a single ethnicity across all colleges, and the other filters to limit the colleges shown.  Sometimes the lesson is not in the details, but the 30,000 foot view.  Ethnicity still matters in America, despite what some people would tell you.

Finally, a different view on the third tab.  Note that it does not show the actual graduation rates.  There's a reason for that.  The premise on this visualization is simple: That when a student enrolls at a college, it's very likely that they plan to graduate from that college.  So if they do, what's the chance they'll graduate in four or five years?  This uses the universe of six-year graduates as the denominator, and the four- and five-year rates as numerator.   The two data points on the left side show the chance that a student graduates in four; the line on the right shows the gap between the two.

As always, let me know what you see here.  I'm always eager to hear your thoughts.  And follow me on Twitter if you want to see these new posts while they're fresh. 


Popular posts from this blog

The Highly Rejective Colleges

If you're not following Akil Bello on Twitter, you should be.  His timeline is filled with great insights about standardized testing, and he takes great effort to point out racism (both subtle and not-so-subtle) in higher education, all while throwing in references to the Knicks and his daughter Enid, making the experience interesting, compelling, and sometimes, fun. Recently, he created the term " highly rejective colleges " as a more apt description for what are otherwise called "highly selective colleges."  As I've said before, a college that admits 15% of applicants really has a rejections office, not an admissions office.  The term appears to have taken off on Twitter, and I hope it will stick. So I took a look at the highly rejectives (really, that's all I'm going to call them from now on) and found some interesting patterns in the data. Take a look:  The 1,132 four-year, private colleges and universities with admissions data in IPEDS are incl

So you think you're going back to the SAT and ACT?

Now that almost every university in the nation has gone test-optional for the 2021 cycle out of necessity, a nagging question remains: How many will go back to requiring tests as soon as it's possible?  No one knows, but some of the announcements some colleges made sounded like the kid who only ate his green beans to get his screen time: They did it, but they sure were not happy about it.  So we have some suspicions about the usual suspects. I don't object to colleges requiring tests, of course, even though I think they're not very helpful, intrinsically biased against certain groups, and a tool of the vain.  You be you, though, and don't let me stop you. However, there is a wild card in all of this: The recent court ruling prohibiting the University of California system from even using--let alone requiring--the SAT or ACT in admissions decisions next fall.  If you remember, the Cal State system had already decided to go test blind, and of course community colleges in

All Degrees Awarded by US Colleges and Universities, 2019

 The question often asked by high school and independent counselors is something like, "What college offers degrees in <insert major name>.  While this can't help you know what colleges offer a specific degree, it can tell you which colleges awarded those degrees in 2019. It can also help you see the shape of degrees awarded in the US, and even dive deeper into a specific college to see what types of degrees  It's pretty straight-forward, but there are also some features you need to be aware of.  If you know how to Tableau, go ahead and dive right in. The first view  using the tabs across the top shows all degrees awarded by US colleges in 2019.  From there, you can choose any specific combination of student and college characteristics: For instance, if you want to find which institutions award the most bachelor's degrees at public universities in the southwest, just click.  If you then want to find which of those colleges offer the most degrees in History, just