How Successful Are Colleges at Graduating Students With Subsidized Stafford Loans?

Some schools do a better job graduating students from different economic backgrounds at the same rates.

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Information about how colleges and universities are serving their entire student populations is in demand, judging from the requests U.S. News receives for it. In October 2012, we answered the question of how successful schools are at graduating low-income students receiving Pell grants; now, we are able to answer the question of how colleges are doing at graduating students receiving subsidized Stafford loans relative to the rest of their student body.

Schools must disclose the graduation rates of students who received a Pell grant, students who received a subsidized Stafford loan but not a Pell grant and students who received neither under the Higher Education Opportunity Act, passed in 2009. These three separate graduation rates can reveal a college's success in serving students from different economic backgrounds.

In spring 2012, U.S. News collected these six-year graduation rate data for the fall 2005 entering class as part of our regular data collection for the 2013 Best Colleges rankings.

The three separate graduation rates – which are not currently being collected by the U.S. Department of Education – 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 income-based graduation rate information is an important measure of whether schools are able to successfully graduate students from all socioeconomic levels at close to the same rates.

The proportion of students receiving subsidized Stafford loans is also considered an indicator of economic diversity, as students have to qualify for financial aid to receive subsidized Stafford loans.

Subsidized Stafford loans come directly from the federal government, and the total an undergraduate student can borrow is now $23,000. Student loan interest rates and the overall cost of financing college have garnered a lot of attention recently with a recent Congressional deal that tied Stafford student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note.

In the analysis below, we have used the information from our spring 2012 data collection to show which schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories are overperformers or underperformers when comparing the six-year graduation rate of students who started in 2005 and received a subsidized Stafford loan, but no Pell grants, with the six-year rate of their entire 2005 entering class.

Of the 510 ranked schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges categories, 341 submitted information to U.S. News on both the entire student body graduation rate and the graduation rate of students with only subsidized Stafford loans for the fall 2005 entering class. Unranked schools, which do not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

Overperformers

The table below shows the top overperforming schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories, where students with 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 (subsidized Stafford loans) Overperformance
Nova Southeastern University (FL) RNP*, National Universities 43% 89% +46
Bennington College (VT) 100, National Liberal Arts Colleges 67% 80% +13
Kalamazoo College (MI) 68, National Liberal Arts Colleges 83% 95% +12
University of Massachusetts—Lowell 170, National Universities 50% 59% +9
Virginia Military Institute 70, National Liberal Arts Colleges 69% 78% +9
University of North Carolina—Asheville 156, National Liberal Arts Colleges 61% 70% +9
Randolph College (VA) 112, National Liberal Arts Colleges 64% 72% +8
Claremont McKenna College (CA) 10, National Liberal Arts Colleges 91% 98% +7
Florida State University 97, National Universities 74% 81% +7
Bloomfield College (NJ) RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 32% 39% +7
Pitzer College (CA) 43, National Liberal Arts Colleges 81% 87% +6
Johnson C. Smith University (NC) RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 37% 43% +6
Colgate University (NY) 18, National Liberal Arts Colleges 92% 98% +6
Hendrix College (AR) 70, National Liberal Arts Colleges 73% 79% +6
St. Mary's College (IN) 87, National Liberal Arts Colleges 79% 85% +6
Simpson University (CA) RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 43% 49% +6
Houghton College (NY) 140, National Liberal Arts Colleges 69% 75% +6

Underperformers

This table lists underperforming schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories, where students with 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 (subsidized Stafford loans) Underperformance
New College of Florida 87, National Liberal Arts Colleges 68% 38% -30
College of William and Mary (VA) 33, National Universities 91% 62% -29
University of New Orleans RNP, National Universities 38% 13% -25
California Institute of Technology 10, National Universities 87% 67% -20
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 39% 21% -18
Sweet Briar College (VA) 100, National Liberal Arts Colleges 70% 52% -18
St. Mary's University of Minnesota 174, National Universities 62% 48% -14
Agnes Scott College (GA) 75, National Liberal Arts Colleges 65% 51% -14
University of Wyoming 156, National Universities 53% 39% -14
University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill 30, National Universities 90% 76% -14
University of Colorado—Denver 189, National Universities 40% 28% -12
Lyon College (AR) 156, National Liberal Arts Colleges 48% 36% -12
University of Arizona 120, National Universities 61% 49% -12
College of Idaho 164, National Liberal Arts Colleges 63% 51% -12
Lynn University (FL) RNP, National Universities 42% 31% -11
University of Nevada—Reno 189, National Universities 53% 42% -11
University of Louisiana—Lafayette RNP, National Universities 41% 30% -11
University of Alaska—Fairbanks RNP, National Universities 31% 20% -11

*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 Aug. 8, 2013.