In recent blog posts, U.S. News published exclusive analyses of how successful colleges are at graduating low-income students and high-income students; in addition, we are now able to look at which schools are exceeding or falling short of expectations in terms of graduating their students. This important outcomes indicator measures the "value added" by colleges in the process of educating their students.
U.S. News became a leader in this area of measuring graduation rate performance when we first published these performance scores and used them as part of the Best Colleges rankings for the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories, starting with the 1997 rankings and as part of our ranking methodology annually since then.
Higher education research shows that students with high SAT and ACT exam scores are more likely to graduate from college. Conversely, students with low scores are less likely to complete their degrees. Thus, a school enrolling a freshman class with a high SAT or ACT test score average has a better chance of seeing a large percentage of students graduate, while a freshman class with a low average ACT or SAT score tends to produce a lower percentage of graduates.
It's an important educational outcome to determine the degree to which a given school is able to succeed given the characteristics of its student body. Our graduation rate performance measure tries to capture this educational value a school is able to add between freshman orientation and graduation.
Currently, the U.S. News graduation rate performance indicator counts for 7.5 percent in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings methodology. A school's predicted graduation rate is calculated by determining the statistical relationship (a regression analysis) between a school's six-year graduation rate and its average SAT and ACT test scores, expenditures per student, proportion of the entering class in the top 25 percent of their high school class, whether the university is public or private, and the proportion of the undergraduate student body that receives Pell grants (federal aid given to students from low-income families).
In the 2013 Best Colleges, we used the difference between a school's actual six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in fall 2005 and the rate we predicted for the class to determine overperformers and underperformers. If the actual graduation rate is higher than the predicted rate, the college is enhancing achievement and performs better in the rankings; if a school's actual rate is less than our estimate, it's falling short of expectations for its students and does not do as well in the rankings.
The table below shows the top overperforming schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories, where the difference between a school's actual six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in fall 2005 was the highest when compared with the U.S. News predicted rate for that school.
|School name (state)||U.S. News rank & category||Predicted 2011 six-year graduation rate||Actual 2011 six-year graduation rate||Overperformance|
|Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--Newark||115, National Universities||46%||68%||+ 22|
|South Carolina State University||147, National Universities||15%||35%||+ 20|
|St. Michael's College (VT)||90, National Liberal Arts Colleges||62%||82%||+ 20|
|North Carolina A&T State University||RNP*, National Universities||25%||43%||+ 18|
|Jackson State University (MS)||RNP, National Universities||25%||43%||+18|
|Bay Path College (MA)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||47%||65%||+ 18|
|Pennsylvania State University--University Park||46, National Universities||70%||87%||+ 17|
|Talladega College (AL)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||24%||40%||+ 16|
|Spalding University (KY)||RNP, National Universities||26%||42%||+ 16|
|Berea College (KY)||75, National Liberal Arts Colleges||46%||62%||+ 16|
This table shows the underperforming schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories, where the difference between a school's actual six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in fall 2005 was the lowest when compared with the U.S. News predicted rate for that school.
|School name (state)||U.S. News rank & category||Predicted 2011 six-year graduation rate||Actual 2011 six-year graduation rate||Underperformance|
|Virginia Intermont College||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||44%||25%||-19|
|Marymount Manhattan College (NY)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||59%||40%||-19|
|University of Alabama--Huntsville||184, National Universities||64%||45%||-19|
|Louisiana State University--Alexandria||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||32%||12%||-20|
|Shimer College (IL)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||59%||35%||-24|
|Dillard University (LA)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||54%||24%||-30|
|American Jewish University (CA)||151, National Liberal Arts Colleges||72%||38%||-34|
|Holy Cross College (IN)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||53%||13%||-40|
|Bryn Athyn College of the New Church (PA)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||70%||30%||-40|
|National-Louis University (IL)||RNP, National Universities||56%||15%||-41|
|Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (PA)||RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges||81%||9%||-72|
*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one fourth of its rankings category. U.S. Newscalculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.
The graduation rate data above are correct as of Nov. 1, 2012.