There was so much data waiting to be explored in College Scorecard’s seemingly endless depths that we went back for more. This time, we’re taking a look at what its thousands of data points can tell us about graduation at institutions in the U.S.
Getting To The Finish Line
Plenty of students enter community college with the goal of transferring to a four-year institution. The benefits are well-publicized, after all. Finish your basic courses for less cash while staying closer to home, or get your associate degree and earn more money for your bachelor’s. But how many students are reaching that goal?
The outlook’s not great, according to our analysis of two-year colleges that are classified “main” campuses. Spartanburg Methodist College, home to less than 1,000 students in South Carolina, is at the top of the heap. Only one-in-five of its students complete their bachelor’s degree within four years of transfering.
If we opt for a larger campus, Blinn College and its enrollment of about 17,800 students takes the fifth spot. At this Texas college, 18 percent of students who transfer to a four-year institution earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.
These rates align pretty closely with what researchers have found. The Community College Research Center at Columbia University reports that—among first-time students who started at a community college in 2014—15 percent had both transferred to a university and earned a bachelor’s after six years.
Colleges at the bottom of our analysis report about 1 percent of their transfer students achieving the goal of a bachelor’s degree within four years of moving to a four-year institution.
Six years is widely considered a normal timeframe for students to wrap up their bachelor’s degree. But whether or not students make it to graduation in six years—and start seeing a return on their investment in their paychecks—depends on a lot of factors. And there are huge differences in how quickly students finish their degrees depending on ethnicity.
Overall, about half of first-time, full-time students at four-year institutions complete their programs within six years. The rate is highest among Asian students, with about two-thirds earning degrees within that period.
But that figure tumbles a whopping 25 percent for American Indian and Alaska Native students, among whom only two–fifths are graduating after six years. Native students face a litany of barriers to higher education, with just 16 percent graduating with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
What kind of degrees are students graduating with? Business, health and social sciences are the top three programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
With our interactive tool, explore the programs students are choosing at large universities (those with at least 30,000 undergraduates enrolled).