How 'Good' is Your Retention Rate? (6 pages)

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years, compared to 39.9% a decade earlier and 46.7% in the late 1960s. The degree

completion rate jumps by nearly two-thirds—to 58.8%—if students are allowed six years

to complete college and to 61.6% if those who are still enrolled after six years are

counted as completers.

The highest four-year completion rates are enjoyed by Asian (38.8%) and white

(37.6%) students, while the lowest rates occur among underrepresented minority

groups: African-Americans (28.9%), Puerto Rican-Americans (23.6%), American Indians

(21.6%) and Mexican-Americans (21.3%).

Four-year completion rates are higher for women (39.7%) than for men (32.6%).

These rates increase by 20 to 25% for each racial or gender group when six-year

completion is considered, but group differences are maintained. Within each racial

group, women have higher six-year degree completion rates than men do, except

among American Indian students, in which the rate for men is slightly higher (43.9%

versus 41.1% for women) (see Table 1.)

Table 1
Six-year degree attainment rates by gender and racial group

Percentage completing bachelor’s degree
within six years*

Women

Men

Total

White

61

57

59

African-American

54

42

50

American Indian

41

44

42

Asian-American

68

63

65

Mexican-American/Chicano/a

50

41

46

Puerto Rican-American

52

28

42

Other

60

48

54

*Figure in the table have been rounded to whole numbers

Effects of institutional type

Four-year degree completion rates for individual institutions vary widely: from a

low of 1% to a high of 89%. Six-year rates range from 18% to 96%. Private institutions of

all types consistently show higher retention rates than do public colleges and

universities, regardless of the retention measure used. The highest four-year completion

rate—67.1%—is found among students attending private universities, whereas the

lowest rate—24.3%—occurs among students at public colleges. The four-year

completion rate for students at public universities—28.1%—is also substantially lower

than the four-year rates for students enrolled at all types of private four-year colleges:

Roman Catholic (46.4%), other religiously affiliated (51%) and independent (56.3%). The

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