Measuring Colleges' Success Graduating Higher-Income Students

An analysis shows graduation rates of higher-income students compared with the entire student body.

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An exclusive U.S. News analysis shows how well colleges and universities are succeeding at graduating higher-income students compared with the graduation rate of the overall student body. 

U.S. News collected six-year income-based graduation rate data for the fall 2006 entering class as part of our data collection for the 2014 Best Colleges rankings. 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 of 2009. 

These different sets of graduation rates show how well a college or university serves students of differing income levels. Both Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans – low-interest loans where the interest is paid by the government while a student is in school – are awarded to students based on financial need. Students with neither, then, can be assumed to be from families with relatively high income levels. 

U.S. News did not include these three separate graduation rates in the 2014 Best Colleges rankings methodology, but may do so for these important outcome measures in future years. 

Measuring the success of college students at lower income levels is one key goal of the president's proposed new college ratings system, to be developed by the U.S. Department of Education and available before the 2015 school year. The plan will identify "colleges that do the most to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as identify colleges that are improving their performance," according to a release from the White House

The U.S. Department of Education is not currently collecting this information, so it's impossible for those developing the federal college ratings plan to measure the graduation rate of students who are not eligible for Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans separately, or include any differentiation of graduation rates by income group in their analysis. 

In the analysis below, we have used this data to show which schools in the U.S. News National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings categories are top performers, overperformers and underperformers when it comes to graduating higher-income students. We compared the six-year graduation rate of higher-income students, as measured by eligibility for Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans, with the six-year rate of the entire graduating class for students who entered in 2006. 

U.S. News has defined top-performing schools for this list as those with overall six-year graduation rates of 90 percent or higher and where the graduation rate of students not eligible for Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans is the same rate as the overall student body, plus or minus 1 percentage point. In other words, all the students at these schools – no matter their income level – are graduating at the same, very high level.

Of the 510 ranked schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings categories, 318 submitted information to U.S. News on both the entire fall 2006 student body graduation rate and the graduation rate of students without Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans students for the fall 2006 entering class. 

Top Performers

The table below shows the top-performing schools in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings categories that graduate students who are not eligible for Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans at close to the same, high graduation rates as the overall student body.

School name (state)U.S. News rank and category6-year overall graduation rate6-year graduation rate of students with no Pell Grant or subsidized Stafford loansDifference
Amherst College (MA)2, National Liberal Arts Colleges95950
Barnard College (NY)32, National Liberal Arts Colleges9089-1
Bowdoin College (ME)4, National Liberal Arts Colleges95950
Brown University (RI)14, National Universities95950
Bucknell University (PA)32, National Liberal Arts Colleges90911
California Institute of Technology10, National Universities92931
Carleton College (MN)7, National Liberal Arts Colleges94940
Claremont McKenna College (CA)9, National Liberal Arts Colleges9291-1
Colby College(ME)22, National Liberal Arts Colleges9089-1
College of the Holy Cross(MA)25, National Liberal Arts Colleges93930
College of William and Mary (VA)32, National Universities90911
Colorado College31, National Liberal Arts Colleges9089-1
Grinnell College (IA)17, National Liberal Arts Colleges90911
Hamilton College (NY)14, National Liberal Arts Colleges91910
Johns Hopkins University (MD)12, National Universities94940
Kenyon College (OH)32, National Liberal Arts Colleges90911
Massachusetts Institute of Technology7, National Universities93941
Middlebury College (VT)4, National Liberal Arts Colleges94951
Northwestern University (IL)12, National Universities93930
Princeton University (NJ)1, National Universities96971
Rice University(TX)18, National Universities92931
Soka University of America(CA)41, National Liberal Arts Colleges92931
Stanford University (CA)5, National Universities95950
Swarthmore College (PA)3, National Liberal Arts Colleges9291-1
University of California—Los Angeles23, National Universities92920
University of Michigan—Ann Arbor28, National Universities91921
University of Notre Dame(IN)18, National Universities95950
University of Pennsylvania7, National Universities96960
University of Southern California23, National Universities90900
University of Virginia23, National Universities93941
Vanderbilt University (TN)17, National Universities9292.50.5
Vassar College (NY)13, National Liberal Arts Colleges91921
Washington and Lee University (VA)14, National Liberal Arts Colleges90911
Washington University in St. Louis14, National Universities94940
Wellesley College (MA)7, National Liberal Arts Colleges92920
Wesleyan University (CT)17, National Liberal Arts Colleges91921
Yale University(CT)3, National Universities9696.80.8

 Overperformers 

The table below shows the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges that graduate students without Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans at higher rates than the overall student body, and are thus overperforming.
 

School name (state)U.S. News rank and category6-year overall graduation rate6-year graduation rate of students with no Pell Grant or subsidized Stafford loansOverperformance
Claflin University(SC)RNP*, National Liberal Arts Colleges446723
University of South Dakota190, National Universities516716
Texas A&M University—CommerceRNP, National Universities365115
Cleveland State UniversityRNP, National Universities344814
Eastern Mennonite University (VA)180, National Liberal Arts Colleges597314
Lyon College(AR)167, National Liberal Arts Colleges496314
Stillman College(AL)RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges253813
Tougaloo College (MS)RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges526513
Berea College(KY)76, National Liberal Arts Colleges667711
College of the Atlantic (ME)93, National Liberal Arts Colleges647511
Simpson College (IA)154, National Liberal Arts Colleges677811
Wayne State University (MI)RNP, National Universities283911
Hollins University (VA)110, National Liberal Arts Colleges566610
Northland College (WI)180, National Liberal Arts Colleges546410
Nova Southeastern University (FL)RNP, National Universities425210
Emory and Henry College(VA)173, National Liberal Arts Colleges4655.69.6
Andrews University (MI)181, National Universities59689
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (PA)RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges18279
Salem College(NC)156, National Liberal Arts Colleges62719
Hendrix College(AR)82, National Liberal Arts Colleges72808
Maryville College(TN)176, National Liberal Arts Colleges53618
New Mexico State University190, National Universities44528
Northern Illinois University177, National Universities54628
University of Minnesota--Morris154, National Liberal Arts Colleges60688
University of Toledo (OH)RNP, National Universities45538

Underperformers 

The table below shows the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges that graduate students without Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans at lower rates than the overall student body, and are thus underperforming.

School name (state)U.S. News rank and category6-year overall graduation rate6-year graduation rate of students with no Pell Grant or subsidized Stafford loansUnderperformance
South Carolina State UniversityRNP, National Universities3416-18
Ave Maria University (FL)RNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges6051-9
Northeastern University (MA)49, National Universities7972-7
St. Michael's College (VT)89, National Liberal Arts Colleges8275-7
Smith College(MA)20, National Liberal Arts Colleges8580-5
SUNY College--Old WestburyRNP, National Liberal Arts Colleges3530-5
University of Massachusetts--Lowell158, National Universities5449-5
Illinois College156, National Liberal Arts Colleges6258-4
Our Lady of the Lake University(TX)RNP, National Universities2723-4
St. Anselm College (NH)120, National Liberal Arts Colleges7470-4
Stonehill College (MA)115, National Liberal Arts Colleges8076-4
University of the Pacific (CA)112, National Universities6359-4
Willamette University (OR)61, National Liberal Arts Colleges7773-4
Brandeis University (MA)32, National Universities9087-3
Colgate University (NY)20, National Liberal Arts Colleges9087-3
Moravian College (PA)138, National Liberal Arts Colleges7471-3
Roanoke College (VA)126, National Liberal Arts Colleges6562-3
Stony Brook University--SUNY82, National Universities7067-3
University of San Francisco117, National Universities6764-3
Wofford College(SC)65, National Liberal Arts Colleges8481-3

*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 January 30, 2014.