The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
With the increasing costs of college tuition and fees, and some students graduating with an average debt load of more than $40,000, spending a few extra years in a university classroom can be a financial strain. Staying in school longer than the traditional four years may end up costing a student thousands of dollars, forcing them to shoulder more debt for longer.
According to the graduation rate data provided by 1,219 ranked colleges and universities to U.S. News in an annual survey, an average of 40 percent of full-time, first time students who entered college in 2005 had graduated by 2009. Of those schools, only 375 colleges graduated 50 percent or more students during that four-year time period for the 2005 entering class.
In comparison, among the 10 schools with the highest four-year graduation rates during this four-year span, an average of nearly 9 in 10 students who started college in 2005 completed their degree by 2009. Swarthmore College, a National Liberal Arts College in Pennsylvania, tops the list with a four-year graduation rate of 91.3 percent.
Six schools on the list are National Liberal Arts Colleges, including Williams College, which topped the rankings of National Liberal Arts Colleges in the 2013 edition of Best Colleges. The other four schools on the list are National Universities, including Yale University and Columbia University, which placed third and fourth, respectively, in the rankings of National Universities.
Schools designated by U.S. News as Unranked were excluded from this list. U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked.
Below is a list of the 10 schools with the highest four-year graduation rates, based on students who started school in fall 2005.
|School name (state)||4-year graduation rate||U.S. News rank and category|
|Swarthmore College (PA)||91.3%||3, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Haverford College (PA)||91.1%||9, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Pomona College (CA)||90.8%||4, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|University of Notre Dame (IN)||90.5%||17, National Universities|
|Georgetown University (DC)||90.1%||21, National Universities|
|Columbia University (NY)||89.4%||4, National Universities|
|College of the Holy Cross (MA)||89.2%||32, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Williams College (MA)||89.0%||1, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|United States Naval Academy (MD)||88.8%||14, National Liberal Arts Colleges|
|Yale University (CT)||88.8%||3, National Universities|
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find information about graduation and retention, as well as complete rankings and much more.
U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2012 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The graduation rate data above are correct as of Oct. 2, 2012.