Measuring Colleges' Success Graduating Students With Subsidized Stafford Loans

A U.S. News analysis sees how well colleges are serving students with subsidized Stafford loans.

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Updated 12/18/13: This post has been updated to remove Rice University, which has notified U.S. News that it incorrectly reported its graduation rate of students who received a subsidized Stafford loan.

U.S. News has analyzed how well colleges and universities are doing at graduating students receiving subsidized Stafford loans, but not a Pell Grant, relative to the rest of their student body.

The tables below are based on data that only U.S. News has collected and published, and are the type of outcome data that those developing the methodology and data sets to be used in the president's proposed college rating plan should consider.

The president's plan would, in part, measure the success of students who receive federal aid like subsidized loans. According to a White House release, "These ratings will compare colleges with similar missions and identify colleges that do the most to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as colleges that are improving their performance" using factors such as graduation rates and loan debt. 

Under the 2009 Higher Education Opportunity Act, 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. 

U.S. News has collected these three separate graduation rate data, which can reveal a college's success in serving students from different economic backgrounds, since 2012 as part of its spring survey of colleges and universities. 

It is unlikely that those developing the federal college rating plan will be able to measure graduation rates of students receiving subsidized Stafford loans separately, because the U.S. Department of Education is not currently collecting this information. The methodology and benchmarks the federal college ratings will use to determine the colleges where students from disadvantaged backgrounds are performing above or below their peers have not been released. 

One indicator of economic diversity is the proportion of students receiving subsidized Stafford loans, as students have to qualify for financial aid to receive these loans. Undergraduates can borrow up to $23,000 in subsidized Stafford loans, which come directly from the federal government. 

In the analysis below, we have used this data for the fall 2006 entering class, collected in spring 2013 as part of our regular data collection for the 2014 Best Colleges rankings – though the data were not incorporated into the 2014 Best Colleges rankings methodology

The data show which schools in the U.S. News National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings categories are top performers, overperformers and underperformers when comparing the six-year graduation rate of students who started in 2006 and received a subsidized Stafford loan, but no Pell Grant, with the six-year rate of their entire 2006 entering class. 

For this list, top-performing schools are defined as those with overall six-year graduation rates of 85 percent or higher and where students who receive a subsidized Stafford loan, but no Pell Grant, graduate at the same rate as the overall student body, plus or minus 1 percentage point. Students at these schools, in other words, are graduating at the same high rate regardless of their income level. 

Data on both the entire fall 2006 student body graduation rate and the graduation rate of students with subsidized Stafford loans for the fall 2006 entering class were submitted to U.S. News by 311 of the 510 ranked schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges categories. 

Unranked schools, which do not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report. 

Top Performers 

The table below shows the schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories where students with subsidized Stafford loans are graduating at close to the same, high graduation rates as the overall student body. 

School name (state) U.S. News rank and category 6-year overall graduation rate 6-year Stafford loan graduation rate Difference
Bates College (ME) 22, National Liberal Arts Colleges 88 89 1
Brown University (RI) 14, National Universities 95 95 0
Bucknell University (PA) 32, National Liberal Arts Colleges 90 91 1
Carleton College (MN) 7, National Liberal Arts Colleges 94 93 -1
Carnegie Mellon University (PA) 23, National Universities 87 88 1
College of the Holy Cross (MA) 25, National Liberal Arts Colleges 93 92 -1
College of William and Mary (VA) 32, National Universities 90 90 0
Colorado College 31, National Liberal Arts Colleges 90 90 0
Grinnell College (IA) 17, National Liberal Arts Colleges 90 91 1
Hamilton College (NY) 14, National Liberal Arts Colleges 91 92 1
Harvey Mudd College (CA) 16, National Liberal Arts Colleges 88 89 1
Johns Hopkins University (MD) 12, National Universities 94 93 -1
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 7, National Universities 93 93 0
Middlebury College (VT) 4, National Liberal Arts Colleges 94 95 1
New York University 32, National Universities 85 85 0
Northwestern University (IL) 12, National Universities 93 94 1
Oberlin College (OH) 25, National Liberal Arts Colleges 85 85 0
Pennsylvania State University—University Park 37, National Universities 86 85 -1
Swarthmore College (PA) 3, National Liberal Arts Colleges 92 92 0
University of California—Irvine 49, National Universities 86 85.7 -0.3
University of California—Los Angeles 23, National Universities 92 91 -1
University of California—Santa Barbara 41, National Universities 86 85 -1
University of Notre Dame (IN) 18, National Universities 95 95 0
University of Pennsylvania 7, National Universities 96 97 1
University of Southern California 23, National Universities 90 91 1
Vassar College (NY) 13, National Liberal Arts Colleges 91 90 -1
Washington University in St. Louis 14, National Universities 94 95 1
Wheaton College (IL) 57, National Liberal Arts Colleges 90 90 0
Whitman College (WA) 41, National Liberal Arts Colleges 87 86 -1

Overperformers 

The table below shows the schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories where students with subsidized Stafford loans graduate at higher rates than the overall student body. 

School name (state) U.S. News rank and category 6-year overall graduation rate 6-year Stafford loan graduation rate Overperformance
Bloomfield College (NJ) RNP*, National Liberal Arts Colleges 37 50 13
University of Alaska—Fairbanks RNP, National Universities 33 46 13
Tougaloo College (MS) RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 52 62 10
Ave Maria University (FL) RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges 60 69 9
Pitzer College (CA) 35, National Liberal Arts Colleges 87 96 9
University of the Pacific (CA) 112, National Universities 63 72 9
Our Lady of the Lake University (TX) RNP, National Universities 27 35 8
Colgate University (NY) 20, National Liberal Arts Colleges 90 97 7
Georgia State University RNP, National Universities 51 58 7
Goucher College (MD) 110, National Liberal Arts Colleges 66 73 7
Texas Southern University RNP, National Universities 12 19 7
University of Massachusetts—Lowell 158, National Universities 54 61 7
New College of Florida 89, National Liberal Arts Colleges 69 75 6
Ripon College (WI) 120, National Liberal Arts Colleges 72 78 6
Virginia Military Institute 65, National Liberal Arts Colleges 71 77 6
Claremont McKenna College (CA) 9, National Liberal Arts Colleges 92 97 5
Moravian College (PA) 138, National Liberal Arts Colleges 74 79 5
New Jersey Institute of Technology 150, National Universities 54 59 5
North Carolina A&T State University RNP, National Universities 42 47 5
Northeastern University (MA) 49, National Universities 79 84 5
Smith College (MA) 20, National Liberal Arts Colleges 85 90 5
College of Wooster (OH) 65, National Liberal Arts Colleges 76 80.6 4.6

Underperformers 

This table lists the schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories where students with subsidized Stafford loans graduate at lower rates than the overall student body. 

School name (state) U.S. News rank and category 6-year overall graduation rate 6-year Stafford loan graduation rate Underperformance
Westminster College (MO) 146, National Liberal Arts Colleges 70 55 -15
Louisiana State University—Baton Rouge 135, National Universities 67 53 -14
Wichita State University (KS) RNP, National Universities 41 27 -14
Arizona State University 142, National Universities 57 44 -13
Oglethorpe University (GA) 165, National Liberal Arts Colleges 55 42 -13
Texas A&M University--Commerce RNP, National Universities 36 23 -13
Polytechnic Institute of New York University 128, National Universities 62 50 -12
University of Tennessee 101, National Universities 66 54 -12
University of Wyoming 161, National Universities 54 42 -12
College of Idaho 167, National Liberal Arts Colleges 64 53 -11
Hollins University (VA) 110, National Liberal Arts Colleges 56 45 -11
Louisiana Tech University 190, National Universities 47 36 -11
Maryville College (TN) 176, National Liberal Arts Colleges 53 42 -11
University of Alabama—Birmingham 152, National Universities 48 37 -11
University of Mississippi 150, National Universities 58 47 -11
Florida Atlantic University RNP, National Universities 41 31 -10
Southern Methodist University (TX) 60, National Universities 79 69 -10
University of Louisville (KY) 161, National Universities 52 42 -10
University of Utah 121, National Universities 59 49 -10
Franklin and Marshall College (PA) 45, National Liberal Arts Colleges 83 74 -9
University of Arizona 119, National Universities 61 52 -9
University of South Dakota 190, National Universities 51 42 -9

*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 Nov. 21, 2013.