Average College Graduation Rates in the US

by Gail Flores

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A college degree can open doors to rewarding careers, personal fulfillment, and higher income. But how many people attain college graduation, and what factors influence these statistics?

In this article, we’ll explore the current state of college graduation rates in the US. We’ll also delve into college enrollment rates, and how the graduation rates differ across states, types of institutions, and ethnicities. Specifically, we’ll look into:

  • General college graduation rate statistics
  • College completion rates within four and six years of enrollment
  • Graduation rates at different types of colleges
  • College graduation rate by gender
  • College graduation rate by ethnicity
  • Graduation rates across different generations in college
  • Top 10 states with the highest college graduation rates
  • Top 10 states with the lowest college graduation rates
  • College graduation rates per state
  • Factors that influence college completion rates
  • Impact of college graduation on the economy
  • Historical trends and future outlook on college completion rates

Let’s dive in!

Top statistics on college graduation

  • The college graduation rate in the US is 62.3%.
  • The four-year completion rate for first-time full-time college students is 41%.
  • Rhode Island has the highest college graduation rate at 76.5%, followed by Massachusetts (74.4%) and Vermont (73.7%).
  • Alaska has the lowest college graduation rates at 34.6%, followed by Nevada (43.2%) and New Mexico (49.1%).
  • College graduation rates are higher for Asian students (80.5%) and White students (73.5%) and comparatively lower rates for Black students (50.2%) and Hispanic students (57.1%) in public four-year universities.
  • More women complete college than men, at 65.6% versus 58.5%.
  • College completion rates are generally higher in private nonprofit universities (66%) and lower rates in private for-profit universities (36%).
  • Adults who have at least one college-educated parent are far more likely to complete college compared with adults with less-educated parents. This trend is consistent across all demographic groups. 
  • Completion rates for first-generation college students are generally lower, with a 92.2% higher dropout rate compared to those with college-educated parents.

General college graduation rate statistics

1. The college graduation rate in the US is 62.3%.

2. In 2022, more than 2 million bachelor’s degrees were awarded in the US.

3. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), only 41% of first-time full-time college students earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.

4. 63% – 64% earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

5. The latest college graduation statistic has remained unchanged from the previous cohort, which was 62.2%.

6. The completion rate in four-year public universities is 57.2%.

7. On the other hand, the completion rate in two-year public universities is 31.9%.

Graduation rates at different types of colleges

8. The community college completion rate is 43.1%.

9. College graduation rates in community colleges have increased by 0.9 percentage points. 

Public Universities

10. The completion rate in four-year public universities is 57.2%.

11. 2022 saw a decline for the first time in completion rates among public universities, despite an increase in cohort size.

12. Public four-year completion rates declined across all racial and ethnic groups, most steeply among Hispanic and Black students.

13. Public four-year institutions saw their starter headcounts increase by over 7,000 students, an increase of 0.6%.

14. Six-year completion rates dropped among public four-year universities by 1 percentage point.

15. On the other hand, the completion rate in two-year public universities is 31.9%.

16. Two-year institutions generally focus on providing student instruction and related activities through career-oriented programs at the certificate and associate’s degree levels. They also prepare students to transfer to 4-year institutions.

17. 7.9% of students in two-year public universities complete their degrees in other four-year institutions.

18. 2.9% of students in two-year public universities complete their degrees in other two-year institutions.

19. In two-year public universities, 8.1% of students complete their degree in another four-year institution.

20. 3.1% of students in two-year public universities complete their degree in another two-year institution.

Private Nonprofit

21. 2022 saw a decline for the first time in completion rates among private nonprofit universities.

22. Six-year completion rates dropped among private nonprofit universities by half a percentage point.

23. The completion rate in private nonprofit universities is 66%.

24. 9.9% of students in public universities complete their degrees in other four-year institutions.

25. 5.6% of students in public universities complete their degrees in other two-year institutions.

Private For-Profit

26. The completion rate in private for-profit universities is 36%.

27. 9.7% of students in public universities complete their degrees in other four-year institutions.

28. 1.9% of students in public universities complete their degrees in other two-year institutions.

College graduation rate by ethnicity

29. Completion rates decreased at similar rates for White, Black, and Hispanic students, by approximately half a percentage point.

30. Completion rates increased for Asian and Native American students.

White college graduation rates

31. Among White adults, individuals with at least one parent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher education are more than twice as likely to have completed college compared to those without a parent with a college education (72% versus 29%). (Pew Research Center).

32. The college graduation rate for White students is 73.5% in public four-year universities.

33. In public two-year institutions, the completion rate for White students is 50.%.

34. Compared to a year prior, the number of White students who obtain their degree in public four-year universities has decreased by 0.1 percentage points.

35. In public two-year universities, the number of White students who obtained their degree has increased by 0.5 percentage points.

Asian college graduation rates

36. Completion rates increased for Asian students by 1.2 percentage points.

37. The college graduation rate for Asian students is 80.5% in public four-year universities.

38. In public two-year institutions, the completion rate for Asian students is 53.4%.

39. Compared to a year prior, the number of Asian students who obtained their degree in public four-year universities has increased by 0.6 percentage points.

40. In public two-year universities, the number of Asian students who obtain their degrees has increased by 1.8 percentage points.

Black college graduation rates

36. The college graduation rate for Black students is 50.2% in public four-year universities.

37. Nationally, completion rates of Black women declined slightly more than men, with a decrease of 0.4 percentage points for Black women and 0.1 percentage points for Black men.

38. Black adults who have a parent with at least a bachelor’s degree are significantly more inclined to have completed college compared to Black adults without a college-educated parent (57% versus 21%). (Pew Research Center).

39. In public two-year institutions, the completion rate for Black students is 31.1%.

40. Compared to a year prior, the number of Black students who obtained their degree in public four-year universities has remained unchanged.

41. In public two-year universities, the number of Black students who obtain their degrees has increased by 0.7 percentage points. 

Hispanic college graduation rates

42. The college graduation rate for Hispanic students is 57.1% in public four-year universities.

43. Hispanic men’s completion rate declined slightly more than women, with a decrease of 0.4 points for Hispanic women against 0.8 percentage points for men.

44. 58% of Hispanic adults with a college-educated parent have a bachelor’s degree themselves.

45. By comparison, only 15% of Hispanic adults who don’t have a college-educated parent are bachelor’s degree holders. 

46. In public two-year institutions, the completion rate for Hispanic students is 37.9%.

47. Compared to a year prior, the number of Hispanic students who obtained their degrees in public four-year universities has decreased by 0.4 percentage points.

48. In public two-year universities, the number of Hispanic students who obtain their degrees has increased by 0.7 percentage points. 

Native American college graduation rates

49. Overall completion rates increased for Native American students by 3 percentage points.

50. 42% of first-time, full-time Native American students attending four-year institutions beginning in 2014 graduated within six years. (Postsecondary National Policy Institute).

51. At two-year institutions, 31% of Native American students tend to graduate within three years at a similar rate as other racial/ethnic groups

52. Of the more than two million bachelor’s degrees conferred in the 2020-21 academic year, 9,545 (0.5%) went to Native American students.

College graduation rate by gender

53. The gender gap in completion rates is steadily growing and is the widest seen since 2008, with a gap of 7.1 percentage points.

54. More women complete their college degrees in the same institutions than men.

Male college graduation rates

55. The national six-year completion rate for men is 58.5%.

56. In public four-year universities, the college completion rate for male students is 64.1%.

57. In public two-year institutions, the completion rate for male students is 40.3%.

58. Compared to a year prior, the number of male students who obtained their degrees in public four-year universities has increased by 0.4 percentage points.

58. In public two-year universities, the number of male students who obtain their degrees has increased by 0.2 percentage points. 

Female college graduation rates

59. The national six-year completion rate for women is 65.6%.

60. In public four-year universities, the college graduation rate for female students is 71.4%.

61. In public two-year institutions, the completion rate for female students is 46.3%.

62. Compared to a year prior, the number of female students who obtained their degrees in public four-year universities has increased by 0.3 percentage points.

63. In public two-year universities, the number of female students who obtain their degrees has increased by 0.5 percentage points. 

Graduation rates across age groups

64. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than people from older generations.

Age 20 or younger: College graduation rates 

65. Traditional-aged college students (students between 20 to 24 years old at first entry) saw no change in their overall six-year completion rate.

66. In four-year public universities, the completion rate for students age 20 or younger is 69.4%.

67. This was an increase of 0.1 percentage points from the year prior.

68. The completion rate for students age 20 or younger in two-year public universities is 44.2%.

69. This was an increase of 0.2 percentage points from the year prior.

Age 21 to 24: College graduation rates

70. In four-year public universities, the completion rate for students aged 21 to 24 is 60.2%.

71. This was an increase of 0.6 percentage points from the year prior.

72. The completion rate for students aged 21 to 24 in two-year public universities is 35.2%.

73. This was an increase of 2 percentage points from the year prior.

Age 24 and above: College graduation rates

74. Older students (students over 24 years old at first entry) continue to make gains but still lag behind traditional-aged students.

75. Adult students have a completion rate of 51.1%.

76. In four-year public universities, the completion rate for students older than 24 is 56.3%.

77. This was an increase of 1.3 percentage points from the year prior.

78. The completion rate for students older than 24 in two-year public universities is 39.7%.

79. This was an increase of 0.9 percentage points from the year prior.

Colleges with the highest college graduation rates

80. Students attending Ivy League institutions are more likely to complete their degrees within six years. Here are the top 10 U.S. colleges with the highest and lowest graduation rates:

UniversityGraduation rate
Princeton University98%
Yale University97%
Harvard University97%
Columbia University in the City of New York97%
University of Chicago96%
University of Notre Dame96%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology96%
Duke University96%
University of Pennsylvania96%
Brown University96%
Source: Univstats

Top 10 states with the highest college graduation rates

81. Rhode Island has the highest college graduation rate at 76.5%, followed by Massachusetts (74.4%) and Vermont (73.7%).

82. Here are the top 10 states with the highest college graduation rates.

StateCollege graduation rate
Rhode Island76.5%
Massachusetts 74.4%
Vermont 73.7%
Pennsylvania 71.9%
Minnesota 70.1%
Iowa 69.9%
South Dakota69.4%
North Dakota 67.5%
Connecticut 67.6%
Maryland 61.0%
Source: National Clearinghouse Research Center (2022)

Top 10 states with the lowest college graduation rates

83. Alaska has the lowest college graduation rates at 34.6%, followed by Nevada (43.2%) and New Mexico (49.1%).

84. Here are the top 10 states with the lowest college graduation rates:

StateCollege graduation rate
Alaska 34.6%
Nevada 43.2%
New Mexico 49.1%
Arizona  52.9%
D.C. 52.4%
Utah 56.4%
Oregon 56.9%
California 55.5%
Texas 57.6%
Louisiana   57.1%
Source: National Clearinghouse Research Center (2022)

College graduation rates per state

85. Six-year completion rates increased in over half of states.

86. Five states in 2022 have increased their graduate rate by at least 1 percentage point: Rhode Island, Kentucky, Utah, Louisiana, and Maryland.

87. Four states saw rates an increase in college completion rates by more than 1.5 percentage points: Idaho, Mississippi, Oregon, and Kansan.

88. A year prior, two-thirds of states made at least 1 percentage point rate gains.

89. Missouri and Vermont had the largest decline in college completion rate, with a decrease of 2.2 and 2.1 percentage points, respectively.

90. In California, the college completion rate in public four-year universities is 66.4% in 2022.

91. This was an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the year prior.

92. In two-year universities, the completion rate in California is 38.5%.

93. In Colorado, the college completion rate in public four-year universities is 64.9% in 2022. This was an increase of 0.7 percentage points from the year prior.

94. In public two-year universities, the completion rate in Colorado is 43.6%. This was a decline of 1 percentage point from the year prior.

95. Here is the distribution of college completion rates across all states:

StateCollege graduation rate
Alabama60.5%
Alaska34.6%
Arizona52.9%
Arkansas59.3%
California55.5%
Colorado61.3% 
Connecticut67.6%
D.C.52.40%
DelawareNo information available
Florida60.7%
Georgia62.5% 
Hawaii53.0%
Idaho53.4% 
Illinois65.3%
Indiana66.4
Iowa69.9%
Kansas60.6%
Kentucky61.4%
Louisiana57.1% 
Maine63.3%
Maryland61.0%
Massachusetts74.4%
Michigan62.1%
Minnesota70.1%
Mississippi59.9%
Missouri61.5%
Montana55.6%
Nebraska62.7% 
Nevada43.2% 
New Hampshire62.8%
New Jersey62.7%
New Mexico49.1%
New York69.1%
North Carolina65.6%
North Dakota67.5%
Ohio66.0%
Oklahoma52.9%
Oregon56.9%
Pennsylvania71.9%
Rhode Island76.5%
South Carolina62.5%
South Dakota69.4%
Tennessee60.3%
Texas57.6%
Utah56.4%
Vermont73.7%
Virginia67.5% 
Washington58.7%
West Virginia59.4%
Wisconsin70.0%
Wyoming58.2%
Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (2022)

Factors that influence college completion rates

Academic Performance

96. Students with better academic performance in high school are more likely to graduate from college. (Forbes).

97. More than 80% of students with a 3.5 to 4.0 unweighted high school GPA graduate from college with a Bachelor’s degree within six years.

98. Only 49% of students with a 2.0 to 2.9 GPA and a quarter of students with less than a 2.0 GPA.

99. A 100-point increase in average SAT score corresponds with an 8.754% increase in graduation rate. (Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education [CAUSE]).

Family Background

100. For every $10,000 increase in median household income, there is a 4.06% increase in graduation rate. (CAUSE).

101. First-generation college students have a 92.2 percent higher dropout rate than students whose parents completed a bachelor’s program or above

102. Adults who have at least one college-educated parent are far more likely to complete college compared with adults with less-educated parents. This trend is consistent across all demographic groups (Pew Research Center).

Institutional factors

103. An increase in need-based federal financial aid for undergraduate students such as the Pell grant has a positive effect on college completion rates. (CAUSE).

104. A single percentage point increase in the percentage of Pell grant recipients is associated with a 10.41% decrease in the graduation rate.

105. The likelihood of students graduating from college can be influenced by factors such as the quality of preparation provided by primary and secondary education, the accessibility of advanced or honors classes, and the availability of support from counselors. (Peng and Zhang, 2021).

Impact of college graduation on the economy

106. Bachelor’s degree holders are 24% more likely to be employed than high school graduates. (Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities [APLU]).

107. According to the Pew Research Center, financial outcomes for adults who successfully earn a bachelor’s degree are significantly associated with the educational background of their parents.

108. Second-generation college graduates have substantially more wealth than first-generation college graduates.

109. The median household income for first-generation college graduates, at $99,600, is notably lower than that of households led by second-generation graduates, which stands at $135,800. 

110. Due to the generally higher income associated with college graduates, they contribute more than $510,000 in taxes over their lifetime, which is $273,000 higher than the tax contribution of a high school graduate. (APLU).

Historical trends and future outlook on college completion rates

111. While there has been some improvement, the gains in college completion have not been substantial.

112. College enrollment dropped significantly at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with postsecondary enrollment falling by 3.29 percent year over year. (Bankrate).

113. In addition to lower graduation rates, there is a steady decline in men enrolling in college. (Brookings Institute).

Learn more about other statistics:

College Graduation Rate Statistics in the US – FAQs

What is the overall college graduation rate in the United States?

The overall college graduation rate in the US is 62.3%.

What percentage of first-time full-time college students earn a bachelor’s degree within four years?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), only 41% of first-time full-time college students earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.

How do completion rates differ among ethnic groups?

Completion rates among ethnic groups vary, with higher rates for Asian students (80.5%) and White students (73.5%), and comparatively lower rates for Black students (50.2%) and Hispanic students (57.1%) in public four-year universities.

Sources

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