4 Colleges That Boast Super-High Graduation Rates

How important is it to graduate from college with a bachelor's degree in four years' time? For students piling on loan debt in order to finish their studies, I believe it would be crucial. Yet many students take five, six, or more years to complete a four-year degree program -- and a growing number of educational institutions are treating this as the new normal.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a college or university, and on-time graduation rates should certainly be among them. Here are four colleges that surpass their peers at launching students in a timely fashion, and -- not surprisingly -- excel in several other areas, as well.

Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire
A member of the Ivy League, Dartmouth is a superior educational value. The college has a four-year graduation rate of 88%, and also gets high marks for return on investment from PayScale -- ranking at No. 19 out of 1486 colleges, and No. 12 out of a total of 599 private, not-for-profit schools. Salaries are nothing to sneeze at, either: beginning salaries for graduates are in the $55,000 per year range, and Dartmouth is No. 38 out of 583 private schools for healthy mid-career pay levels.

Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania
Lafayette graduates 89% of its more recent bachelor program students in four years, and sports an overall ROI of 44, and a rank of 28 when stacked up against its private-school peers. Typical yearly starting pay for graduates is a robust $57,600, and Lafayette claims a 95% employment rate for its recent graduates -- although graduate school enrollment and internships are included in that percentage, as well. The school comes in at No. 36 for mid-career salaries.

University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana
This Roman Catholic University also sends 89% of its four-year degree program participants out into the world in the prescribed timespan, and has been awarded a stellar return on investment rating of 23 out of all colleges, and 15 for private schools. New University of Notre Dame graduates can expect to earn in the neighborhood of $54,000 per year, and the school ranks at No. 20 out of 583 for mid-career salary levels.

Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Williams College is a small liberal arts college that graduates a walloping 91% of its bachelor's degree students in four years' time. In addition, Williams College ranks 21 for ROI out of all colleges and comes in at No. 14 among its private-school competitors. Recent graduates earn a very respectable $50,400 upon graduation, and work their way up to an enviable salary level by mid-career, where the college ranks No. 17 among its peers.

Other things to consider
The U.S. government's College Scorecard site provides some additional tidbits of salient information. For instance, though Notre Dame and Lafayette are considered high cost, Dartmouth and Williams are more moderately priced. Another plus is the fact that median borrowing is low at the latter two colleges, at between $12,000 and $14,000 for an undergraduate degree -- whereas families typically borrow approximately $21,000 to pay for a course of study at Lafayette or Notre Dame.

Significantly, loan default rates at all four of these schools are very low -- between 1% and 1.3% -- compared with the national rate of 13.4%. Apparently, those high salaries help ameliorate the cost of student loan payments for graduates of these fine schools, a fact that should put these colleges at the top of most college shopping lists.

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  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2013, at 2:17 PM, mbonacello wrote:

    It is amazing how no one recommends attending a community college or local college to obtain your Associate's Degree, then transferring to the big name university to finish up your Bachelor's. I did it and my children will do it. Saves a lot of money, and the degree on the wall still says the big name university.

    $55-60k a year for school is not a good investment regardless of the school. If you can get into Notre Dame or Dartmouth then you can probably get more scholarships from another school bringing your investment down. Another great way to save money.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2013, at 5:32 PM, Arnquist wrote:

    I'm glad community college worked well for you. It doesn't for everyone. I've seen many cases where pre req's taken at a community college were less rigorous, leaving a student under-prepared for courses at a 4-year institution . You are right, tho, that for some it can work well. Another issue is maturity. Living at home and attending a community college again works well for some, but that can be a period of tremendous individual growth, and for some, a University for some, a university fosters that growth. Whether takings te than 5 years to graduate is an issue depends on the reason. If one is rifling half-time or more to pay expenses and avoid debt , it is really not possible to go to school full time and it will take longer to graduate. Avoiding debt is a good tradeoff for taking longer to graduate. IV one fakes longer simply because one is making poor decisions, that's a mire serious issue, especially If one is racking ip debt at the same time. i guess my point is these are difficult and important issues with no automatic "right" answer. It depends on the person and the issues.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2013, at 6:24 AM, Opinion123 wrote:

    College is very expensive. It should be treated as an investment for your future income. It doesn't make sense to pay the same amount of money to earn a degree in a field that will yield $40,000 as opposed to $150,000. If you do not come from a family that can pay your way through school then living at home and going to community college should be your first option before taking out a student loan. There are many things a parent can do to help their child mature. When I was in college there was an awful lot of partying going on. I think living at home and getting part-time job would be more likely to help them adjust to the hardships of adult life.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2013, at 8:54 AM, dbtuner wrote:

    These schools all cost around $60k/yr. Shouldn't schools be rated on "bang for the buck"? If a State school costs half that much, and the starting salaries are about the same and the 4 year graduation rate is about the same, isn't that a better use of resources? I will take a slightly lower grad rate and slightly lower job rate/salary rate for 1/2 the cost.

    The only schools I would pay that money for are the Ivy's, MIT, Stanford, Duke. Maybe a couple of others.

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2014, at 11:16 PM, Florestani wrote:

    I always have to chuckle when I read reports on college and college education. Of COURSE Dartmouth and Notre Dame have high graduation rates and good salaries for graduates! They are very good universities, and accept only the very best students. Yes, exceptionally good students do well in college (actually belong IN college, unlike many at many of today's college students in America) and finish on time. DUH!

    The reason many schools have much lower graduation rates within four years is that they are filled with students who graduate from high school with a 9th grade level of educational attainment and as a result they struggle, switch majors five times (to find something they CAN do, like switch from science to film studies) and as a result it takes them forever to finally get enough passed credits to graduate. Then they drive a taxi for much less than $54,000/year since they got a degree at a mediocre school in a ridiculous and useless "field of study". Oh, and they got mediocre (or worse) grades even in the silly stuff they DID study!

  • Report this Comment On January 02, 2014, at 7:44 AM, ershler wrote:

    I got an Associate's Degree at my local community college and it was a waste of time. I transferred in 65 credits but only 30 of them applied to my grad plan. It saved me from taking some English and Liberal Arts classes.

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