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Make Sure Your Student Graduates College in 4 Years!

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Graduate College in 4 Years?

You may be shocked to know the percentage of students that actually graduate college in 4 years! The number of students needing 5 and even 6 years to graduate is increasing at an alarming rate. Below is a list of all the 4 year colleges that reported 4 year graduation rate data for the 2012 year. I excluded colleges that did not report data or reported a graduation rate of zero. The average for almost 2,000 colleges is……………… 35.2%! That’s 35.2% of students actually graduating in 4 years! Which means 64.8% are either taking longer or dropping out altogether. The percentage of students graduating in 6 years is surprising also. That number is 47.8%! You can click on the table below too see the complete list (data supplied by the National Center of Education Statistics).

4 Yr Graduation Rate 2012

View the complete table here


My Observations

Here are some observations I’ve made about the data. First, the higher priced and elite colleges tend to have higher graduation rates. That may be because the entrance requirements are stricter so students attending those colleges may be more motivated to graduate on schedule . Second, the colleges that were excluded because they did not report a percentage tended to be medical, nursing, law and religious institutions. Third, online universities seemed to have very low graduation rates. If we deleted them from the database the 4 and 6 year graduation rates would be slightly higher.

How To Use The Info

So how do you use this information in your College Money Strategy™?

First, The percentage of students not graduating in 4 or 6 years include those that don’t graduate at all so make sure your child belongs in college immediately following high school. Community college may be a good first step and allows a student to get adjusted to the college lifestyle while taking the required classes at a cheaper cost.

Second, most areas of study can be completed in four years so make sure your student understands the importance of graduating on time. Here is the main point of this article…………. You and your student must understand what just one extra year in college means. One extra year means another year of tuition, fees, supplies, room and board as well as travel costs back and forth to college. Multiply that by two if your student graduates in 6 years.

Third, there are some areas of study that require more than 4 years. If that’s the case make sure you understand that as early as possible so you can prepare for the additional costs.

One last point on this. In my experience I see one reason over and over again as to why students are not graduating on schedule. Too much fun. College should be one of the best times of our lives but it should be up to each parent to give guidance to your student. Help them understand that there needs to be balance between the college “fun” experience and the college “academic” experience and make sure the fun doesn’t get in the way of the ultimate reason for college. So the best way to make sure you reduce your college costs is to make sure you are not paying more than you should to begin with……… make sure your student graduates in 4 years!


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  • Jim Anderson

    A couple of points….
    1. Don’t rule out a school based on this number. Check into the reasons for it. Is the school a stepping stone school for another university? Do limited majors force students to transfer to another school? Etc…
    2. There are many reasons for a student to take longer than 4 years to graduate. Too much fun is only one of them. If fun is doing things when you should be studying, fun includes: drinking/partying, sporting events, road trips, etc… These choices lead to missed classes, dropping classes, or lighter schedule to allow for the fun time. All lead to more than 4 years to graduate. Others are: Course scheduling or not available. Taking courses that don’t help graduation requirements. More credits required to graduate than before. Changing majors too late and having taken courses that don’t help graduation…
    In summary, know what lies ahead of you and plan for it. It takes planning and follow through.

    I hope this helps….