Despite being home to some of the world’s best academic institutions, 75% of Chicago area four year, Bachelor degree granting institutions have overall graduation rates of less than 50%.
According to data obtained from the US Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), of the 32 colleges and universities that offered four year, Bachelor degree programs in Chicago, only 8 of them had overall graduation rates of 50% or higher. The NCES defines overall graduation rates as the “percentage of full-time, first-time students who graduated within 150% of "Normal Time" to Completion for their program.”
There are many reasons why so many colleges have low graduation rates. The recession and rising unemployment coupled with ever-rising tuition rates and fees have caused many students to put their academic careers on hold. Chicago area students are paying some of the highest tuition rates in the state. Furthermore, in 2009, Governor Quinn and the Illinois State Legislature made deep cuts to the Monetary Award Program (MAP) which eliminated or reduced grants for tens of thousands of students statewide. The effects of the reductions in MAP funding will surely be reflected in future graduation rate reporting through the NCES.
Competition is another factor that affects local graduation rates. In Chicago, there are over 80 colleges, universities and vocational schools that spend a lot of money to attract students. With so many colleges to choose from, if Chicago area students don’t like the college they are currently attending, it is very easy to transfer to another one, often just a few blocks away from their original institution. Graduation rates are typically higher in areas where there are very few higher education institutions.
Finally, most area colleges are graduating fewer than half of their classes because students are not taking the time to fully understand what majors they are actually interested in. Most area colleges do not require students to undergo a personal interview as part of the application and admission process so they take it for granted that a student would actually know what the program they checked off on the “College Major” box on their admission application entails. Once the student actually realizes that the major they are pursuing will not help them obtain the career they are seeking, they will often search for a college that offers the major they truly wanted.
Graduation rates can vary greatly from year to year. Aside from graduation rates, the NCES offers a searchable database that includes information ranging from the student/teacher ratios to types of sports teams available at every college in the US so as to offer students the most information possible so they can make an educated decision on which college to attend.
The top three Chicago area colleges with the highest graduation rates were Northwestern University (94%), University of Chicago (93%) and, DePaul University (68%).
The Chicago area colleges with the lowest graduation rates were Telshe Yeshiva - Chicago (7%), Chicago State University (14%) and, International Academy of Design & Technology (14%).
With so much taxpayer money used for financial aid, should universities be doing a better job at increasing their graduation rates? Comment below.