4.3 million freshmen started college in fall 2004.

What colleges did they graduate from?
1 of 4
What happened to the rest of them?
Montana State University at Bozeman
938 graduates

Public universities 487,000

Public universities

Community colleges 119,000

Community colleges

Private colleges 292,000

Private colleges

For-profits 121,000

For-profit colleges

1.2 million aren’t counted

It’s impossible to know whether many freshmen graduated or not, because the U.S. government simply doesn’t track them. Part-time students are among those not counted.

2.1 million didn’t officially graduate

This number isn’t exact, because it includes both drop-outs and students who started at one college and graduated from another.


Top-performing colleges with at least 200 freshmen per year

Public university
University of Georgia
43% Six-year graduation rate
Community college
University of Georgia
43% 150% graduation rate
Private college
University of Georgia
43% Six-year graduation rate
For-profit college
University of Georgia
43% 150% graduation rate
These numbers are estimates based on a Chronicle analysis of the entering fall 2004 class at 3,800 colleges. More information.


The Rise and Fall of the Graduation Rate

The way students go to college now makes the government’s measure less useful than ever.

To Raise Completion Rates, States Dig Deeper for Data

Knowing more about students can help colleges do what it takes to help them graduate. Easier said than done.

For-Profits Develop More-Forgiving Measures to Tally Grads

The federal rate’s flaws loom especially large for proprietary colleges. But are their alternatives more marketing than metric?

Students Who Don’t Count

Transfers, people who take a year off, and part-time students’ all a growing group of enrollees are not included in national data about who finishes college.

Do College Completion Rates Really Measure Quality?

Seven higher-education experts assess the meaning behind the measurements.

Recent Discussion


Notable Colleges

Start exploring the data to find your own stories—here are a few colleges to get you started.
Washington and Lee University
Graduation rate within 100 percent of normal time, the highest rate overall for sizable 4-year private institutions. Get details
Hebrew Theological College
Graduation rate within six years, markedly lower than most faith-related institutions. Get details
University of Florida
Graduation rate within six years for Hispanic students at an institution with minimal completion gaps between under-represented minority students and the overall undergraduate body. Get details