Virginia among the best states in college completion rates

Posted: March 14, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Graduating on time is essential to getting a good return on one’s investment in a college degree.  Access and completion are the two factors that determine our ability to produce the graduates we need to stay competitive.  That’s why, in November, Governor McAuliffe announced a partnership with Complete College America aimed at increasing on-time graduation rates and closing attainment gaps in Virginia.

Many factors can harm on-time college completion.  College careers can be delayed–or derailed– for financial issues, personal circumstances, academic skill and self-efficacy, insufficient opportunities for social engagement, inadequate advising, etc.  Some of these factors affect minority and low-income students disproportionately.

How well are we doing in Virginia in terms of on-time degree completion?

Degree completion rates at Virginia’s public colleges and universities are among the highest in the country. For cohorts entering in Fall 2006 through 2009 at public four-year institutions, the Commonwealth has ranked second or third in six-year completion rates.*

For public two-year institutions, Virginia also is among the top 10 states in six-year completion rates for the same entering cohorts of Fall 2006-2009.**

Just more than 76.6 percent of students entering a public, four-year institution in Virginia in Fall 2009 completed a degree within the following six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (see their recently released state supplement to their annual college completion report).

 

completionrateschart

 

At left, total 6-year completion rates for students starting at public 4-year institutions in Fall 2006-2009

 

 

Virginia also ranks highly in supporting degree completion among transfer students from two-year to four-year institutions. For the Fall 2009 cohort, Virginia had the third-highest rate of students starting at a public two-year school and completing a degree at a four-year institution within six years.

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to visit with Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton and Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, to review our progress and discuss plans for the future.  I was proud to report some strong results.

Using the same measure as the Clearinghouse report — graduation from Mason or any other institution — Mason’s six-year graduation rates are 79 percent for first-time full-time freshmen who entered Mason in 2008, and 85 percent for full-time transfer students who entered in 2008.

Student retention and degree completion are priorities set forth in Mason’s 10-year strategic plan.  Achieving our goal of 100,000 career-ready graduates by 2024 involves not only finding pathways for talented students to attend Mason, but helping students succeed once they are here.

We continue to work toward this objective, from implementing new technologies and teaching methods that provide flexibility, to advising and customizing learning experiences to meet the specific needs of each student.

We’re proud of Mason’s role in contributing to Virginia’s national standing for completion rates. And we aspire to do even better.

* These ranks are out of the approximately 46 states with available data for these four cohorts.
** These ranks are out of the approximately 36 states with available data for these four cohorts.

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Write to presidentstaff at scullen1@gmu.edu

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