March is a month for nail-biters – fans on edge with basketball madness and high school seniors anxiously waiting to hear from colleges. Choosing a college is a big decision, one that impacts the next four years of a student’s life and a lot of money, typically $120,000 for an in-state public college or close to $260,000 for an out-of-state or private college.
When researching colleges, families may not ask some of the most important questions – What percentage of students graduate in four years? If it takes longer than four years to graduate, that’s more than four years of tuition. UNC has a four-year graduation rate of 76% vs. Oregon with a 44% rate. Some of the other colleges that lost earlier in the tournament had even better four-year graduation rates. Bucknell’s four-year graduation rate is 86%.
Another important question is What percentage of students return for the second year? This statistic is called retention rate, and there’s a 10-point difference this year in retention rates of the colleges in the final four! Nationwide 27% of students do not return for year two. When students transfer, not all their credits are likely to transfer, thus adding to the cost of that college diploma. No one wants to pay for an extra semester or year of college at these prices.
So, remember choosing a college to attend is not the same as choosing your favorite March Madness pick.