Evaluating Predicted, Actual Graduation Rates at Regional Colleges

Comparing graduation rates at Regional Colleges and Universities show over- and underperformers.

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For the 2014 Best Colleges rankings, U.S. News calculated a predicted graduation rate for Regional Colleges and Regional Universities for the first time in the rankings' 30-year history.

A predicted graduation rate has been calculated for the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges since the 1997 rankings. 

The predicted graduation rate is an attempt to capture how well a college is able to support students so they are able to graduate with a degree and find where students succeed beyond what their test scores and other key factors might otherwise predict. 

Schools with an actual graduation rate that exceeds the predicted rate are seen as boosting student achievement and, as a result, perform better in the rankings. Schools where students graduate at a lower rate than our estimate do not do as well in the rankings and fall short of expectations for their students. 

U.S. News computes the predicted graduation rate, which makes up 7.5 percent of the Regional Universities and Regional Colleges rankings methodology, by creating models that use regression analysis. The models use characteristics of the fall 2006 entering cohort of students and characteristics of the colleges to predict what the graduation rate should be for that group of students. 

Characteristics of the students include the average ACT and SAT test scores of the fall 2006 entering class, the proportion of those entering students who were in the top quarter of their high school class and the proportion of the student body that receives Pell Grants. 

The colleges' characteristics include whether the school is public or private and the average financial expenditures per student. 

In the models, a relatively higher predicted graduation rate is calculated for schools where students have higher ACT and SAT test scores, where a greater proportion are in the top quarter of their high school class and which have higher average financial expenditures per student. Being a public school and having a relatively large proportion of the student body receiving Pell Grants results in a lower predicted graduation rate. 

This type of analysis could be used in President Barack Obama's college ratings plan. The plan's intent is to "help students compare the value offered by colleges and encourage colleges to improve," according to a release from the White House, by using measures such as graduation rates and the number of students receiving Pell Grants to identify colleges that do the most to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds and that are improving. 

Overperformers 

The two tables below show the Regional Universities and Regional Colleges where the difference between a school's actual six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in fall 2006 was the highest when compared with the U.S. News predicted graduation rate for that school. These schools are considered overperforming.

Overperforming Regional Universities
School name (state) U.S. News rank and category Predicted 2012 six-year graduation rate Actual 2012 six-year graduation rate Overperformance
Monroe College (NY) 116, Regional Universities (North) 27% 65% +38
Indiana Wesleyan University 17, Regional Universities (Midwest) 42% 71% +29
St. Joseph's College New York 48, Regional Universities (North) 39% 67% +28
Gwynedd-Mercy College (PA) 111, Regional Universities (North) 53% 75% +22
Fresno Pacific University (CA) 42, Regional Universities (West) 51% 72% +21
William Carey University (MS) 36, Regional Universities (South) 40% 58% +18
Robert Morris University (IL) 92, Regional Universities (Midwest) 31% 48% +17
SUNY College—Cortland 69, Regional Universities (North) 52% 69% +17
Springfield College (MA) 37, Regional Universities (North) 49% 66% +17
Woodbury University (CA) 48, Regional Universities (West) 42% 59% +17

  

Overperforming Regional Colleges
School name (state) U.S. News rank and category Predicted 2012 six-year graduation rate Actual 2012 six-year graduation rate Overperformance
College of Our Lady of the Elms (MA) 17, Regional Colleges (North) 42% 68% +26
Morrisville State College (NY) 44, Regional Colleges (North) 39% 59% +20
SUNY College of Technology—Alfred 17, Regional Colleges (North) 35% 55% +20
Bethune-Cookman University (FL) 41, Regional Colleges (South) 25% 43% +18
Martin Luther College (MN) 40, Regional Colleges (Midwest) 54% 72% +18
SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology—Cobleskill 36, Regional Colleges (North) 30% 48% +18
Maine Maritime Academy 7, Regional Colleges (North) 45% 62% +17
Elizabeth City State University (NC) 21, Regional Colleges (South) 28% 43% +15
Pennsylvania College of Technology 29, Regional Colleges (North) 37% 52% +15
Franklin College (IN) 6, Regional Colleges (Midwest) 46% 60% +14
High Point University (NC) 1, Regional Colleges (South) 47% 61% +14
SUNY College of Technology—Delhi 29, Regional Colleges (North) 43% 57% +14
University of Mount Union (OH) 6, Regional Colleges (Midwest) 51% 65% +14

Underperformers

The two tables below show the Regional Universities and Regional Colleges where the difference between a school's actual six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in fall 2006 was the lowest when compared with the U.S. News predicted graduation rate for that school. These schools are considered underperforming.

Underperforming Regional Universities
School name (state) U.S. News rank and category Predicted 2012 six-year graduation rate Actual 2012 six-year graduation rate Underperformance
University of the District of Columbia RNP*, Regional Universities (North) 52% 16% -36
University of Alaska—Southeast RNP, Regional Universities (West) 51% 24% -27
University of Alaska—Anchorage 71, Regional Universities (West) 52% 26% -26
Metropolitan State University (MN) RNP, Regional Universities (Midwest) 48% 23% -25
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 24, Regional Universities (West) 74% 49% -25
Cameron University (OK) RNP, Regional Universities (West) 42% 19% -23
Kettering University (MI) 24, Regional Universities (Midwest) 77% 55% -22
Concordia University Texas RNP, Regional Universities (West) 56% 35% -21
Davenport University (MI) RNP, Regional Universities (Midwest) 44% 23% -21
Indiana University-Purdue University—Fort Wayne RNP, Regional Universities (Midwest) 42% 22% -20
Underperforming Regional Colleges
School name (state) U.S. News rank and category Predicted 2012 six-year graduation rate Actual 2012 six-year graduation rate Underperformance
Florida College RNP, Regional Colleges (South) 55% 8% -47
Bard College at Simon's Rock (MA) 11, Regional Colleges (North) 76% 32% -44
St. Catharine College (KY) RNP, Regional Colleges (South) 41% 10% -31
CUNY—Medgar Evers College RNP, Regional Colleges (North) 40% 10% -30
Chancellor University (OH) RNP, Regional Colleges (Midwest) 36% 8% -28
Post University (CT) RNP, Regional Colleges (North) 51% 25% -26
LeMoyne-Owen College (TN) RNP, Regional Colleges (South) 32% 8% -24
Truett McConnell College (GA) RNP, Regional Colleges (South) 38% 14% -24
York College (NE) RNP, Regional Colleges (Midwest) 50% 26% -24
Victory University (TN) RNP, Regional Colleges (South) 38% 16% -22

*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 Jan. 16, 2014.