While Georgetown, Washington & Lee, and the University of Virginia retain their positions among colleges with the top graduation rates in the country, many other area schools are making impressive gains in the percent of undergrads completing degrees within six years.
Admittedly, the six year figure is often startling to parents who thought they were signing up for four years only. And many colleges protest that the way in which numbers are reported doesn’t take into account transfers or students who take extended breaks and eventually return to college. Colleges serving nontraditional populations, for example, are most hurt by this methodology.
But it’s the statistic collected by the federal government and represents the "primary, publicly available metric that describes how well colleges are serving their students."
Based on widely-quoted figures from the US Department of Education, only 58 percent of the high school students who begin four-year degrees complete in six years.
But many local colleges and universities are working hard to improve their individual numbers, and the results are evident. According to numbers provided by the College Results Online website, Howard, Hood, and Roanoke College win local “most improved” awards by jumping 7 full percentage points in graduation rates, proving that college transition and support programs pay off.
Other longer-term winners include Christopher Newport University, which has increased its six-year graduation rate by 15 points since 2005, and George Mason University, which has increased its rate by 10 points over the same period.
Results from other area colleges and universities are mixed but generally appear stable:
- American University: 79% (+2)
- Catholic University: 69% (-3)
- Christopher Newport University: 60 (+2)
- College of William and Mary: 90% (-1)
- George Mason University: 63% (+2)
- George Washington University: 81% (no change)
- Georgetown University: 93% (no change)
- Goucher College: 66% (-3)
- Hood College: 77% (+7)
- Howard University: 69% (+7)
- James Madison University: 83% (+2)
- Johns Hopkins University: 90% (-1)
- Longwood University: 59% (+1)
- Loyola University of Maryland: 82% (-1)
- Marymount University: 57% (+1)
- McDaniel College: 70% (no change)
- Radford University: 57% (no change)
- Randolph-Macon College: 62% (-1)
- Roanoke College: 71% (+7)
- St. Mary’s College of Maryland: 77% (-1)
- Salisbury University: 70% (+4)
- Stevenson University: 62% (+4)
- Sweet Briar College: 59% (-1)
- Towson University: 68% (-5)
- United States Naval Academy: 89% (+1)
- UMBC: 57% (-2)
- University of Mary Washington: 75% (no change)
- University of Maryland—College Park: 82% (no change)
- University of Richmond: 87% (+1)
- University of Virginia: 93% (no change)
- Virginia Commonwealth University: 50% (no change)
- Virginia Military Institute: 70% (-3)
- Virginia Tech: 80% (no change)
- Washington & Lee University: 93% (+2)
For an even more comprehensive view of graduation rates over time (back to 1997), check out the College Results Online website, maintained by the Education Trust. It’s a fantastic college search tool!