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Local 6-year graduation rates show little change from last year

Sweet Briar College jumped 11 percentage points in their 6-year graduation rate.
Sweet Briar College jumped 11 percentage points in their 6-year graduation rate.
Nancy Griesemer

While Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Washington & Lee, UVa and the U.S. Naval Academy retain their positions among colleges with the top graduation rates in the country, other area colleges are making small progress 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 59 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 generally mixed. According to numbers provided by the College Results Online website, Sweet Briar College jumped 11 full percentage points over graduation rates posted last year, 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 18 points since 2005, and George Mason University, which has increased its rate by 12 points over the same period.

Here are results from other area colleges and universities:

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!