Which Colleges Are Successfully Graduating High-Income Students?

See graduation rates of students who haven't received a Pell grant or a subsidized Stafford loan.

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U.S. News is often asked to collect, analyze, and publish more information about how well colleges and universities are serving their students from different income levels. We recently conducted a first-ever analysis of how successful colleges are at graduating low-income students, based on data exclusively collected by U.S. News. Now, for the first time, we are also able to answer the question of how schools are doing at graduating their students who come from families with the highest incomes relative to the rest of their student body.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act, passed in 2009, requires that schools disclose the graduation rates of students who received a Pell grant (federal aid given to students from low-income families), students who received a subsidized Stafford loan but not a Pell grant, and students who received neither. These three separate graduation rates indicate if a college is successful in serving students from different income levels.

The population of students receiving neither a Pell grant nor a subsidized Stafford loan includes students from families who had incomes that are above the level needed to qualify for those two federal government programs—and therefore are generally not the neediest students on campus. Campus economic diversity and the determination of whether students from families with lower income levels graduate at the same rate as students from families with higher incomes are issues garnering interest throughout the higher education community.

This spring, U.S. News collected these three graduation rate data for the fall 2005 entering class as part of our regular data collection for the 2013 Best Colleges rankings. This information is not currently being collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

The three separate graduation rates were not incorporated into the 2013 Best Colleges rankings methodology. However, in future years we may incorporate them into the rankings model, since this differential graduation rate information is an important outcome measure.

In the analysis below, we have used this data collection to show which schools in the U.S. News National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories are overperformers or underperformers when comparing the six-year graduation rate of their non-Pell grant and non-subsidized Stafford loan students with the six-year rate of their entire graduating class. 

Of the 510 ranked schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges categories, 332 submitted information to U.S. News on both the entire fall 2005 student body graduation rate and the graduation rate of non-Pell grant and non-subsidized Stafford loan students for the fall 2005 entering class.

Overperformers

The table below shows the top overperforming schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories, where students without Pell grants or subsidized Stafford loans are graduating at higher rates than the overall student body.

School name (state) U.S. News rank & category 6-year graduation rate (overall) 6-year graduation rate (no Pell or subsidized Stafford) Overperformance
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts RNP*, National Liberal Arts Colleges 53% 84% +31
Claflin University (SC) RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 40% 62% +22
Spelman College (GA) 68, National Liberal Arts Colleges 77% 99% +22
Wisconsin Lutheran College 178, National Liberal Arts Colleges 63% 79% +16
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 39% 54% +15
College of the Atlantic (ME) 90, National Universities 71% 84% +13
Hanover College (IN) 112, National Liberal Arts Colleges 71% 84% +13
Agnes Scott College (GA) 75, National Universities 65% 77% +12
Wayne State University (MI) RNP, National Universities 26% 37% +11
Eastern Mennonite University (VA) 175, National Liberal Arts Colleges 66% 76% +10
University of Akron (OH) RNP, National Universities 38% 48% +10

Underperformers

This table lists underperforming schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories, where students without Pell grants or subsidized Stafford loans are graduating at lower rates than the overall student body.

School name (state) U.S. News rank & category 6-year graduation rate (overall) 6-year graduation rate (no Pell or subsidized Stafford) Underperformance
Johnson C. Smith University (NC) RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 37% 15% -22
Florida Atlantic University RNP, National Universities 43% 31% -12
Nova Southeastern University (FL) RNP, National Universities 43% 33% -10
Bennington College (VT) 100, National Liberal Arts Colleges 67% 58% -9
University of Massachusetts--Lowell 170, National Universities 50% 41% -9
Wartburg College (IA) 151, National Liberal Arts Colleges 63% 55% -8
Fisk University (TN) 145, National Liberal Arts Colleges 42% 36% -6
Pace University (NY) 174, National Universities 56% 50% -6
Polytechnic Institute of New York University 139, National Universities 54% 48% -6
Randolph College (VA) 112, National Liberal Arts Colleges 64% 58% -6

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one fourth of its rankings category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it. 

The graduation rate data above are correct as of October 25, 2012.