Higher Ed, Metro

R.I. ranks sixth in nation for grad rates

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, November 2, 2012

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education study found that Rhode Island’s 2010 college graduation rates exceed the national average, with Brown topping the list. The state’s eight four-year private colleges collectively achieved a four-year graduation rate of 63.8 percent and a six-year graduation rate of 72.9 percent in 2010. The Ocean State ranked sixth in the nation for graduation rates in the same year.
While the nation’s average 2010 graduation rate for four-year private colleges was 52.5 percent in four years and 65.5 percent in six years, Brown averaged an 85.7 graduation rate in four years and a 95.6 percent six year graduation rate. Brown also recorded a high freshman-to-sophomore retention rate of 98 percent.
Rhode Island School of Design ranked second, with a four-year graduation rate of 86.7 percent, followed by Providence College with a graduation rate of 85.9 percent.
The state’s public institutes of higher education – Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island – ranked 19th in the nation, with a four-year graduation rate of 34.1 percent and a six year graduation rate of 57.8 percent. The Community College of Rhode Island, the state’s only two-year school, fell below the national average. CCRI saw only 9.3 percent of its students graduate in three years, while the national average for two-year public schools was 20.4 percent.
The Chronicle’s graduation rates exclude those who may have transferred or re-enrolled into the same college before graduating, indicating that those not counted in the graduating class were not necessarily dropouts.
These numbers are a critical component of all of Rhode Island’s higher education systems.
 “Graduating rates are one of the many important factors that students and families consider while selecting a college,” said Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs and University relations at Brown.
Most of Rhode Island’s private colleges have kept their graduation rates stable over a period of years. Brown has maintained graduation rate of at least 94 percent for the past 10 years, and RISD’s six-year graduation rates have ranged from 87 to 90 percent since 2008.
Some colleges attribute their high graduation rates to a rigorous admissions process. “Our high graduation rates are maintained because we carefully review students during the admissions process,” said Hugh Lena, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Providence College.  
“Beginning eight years ago, we increased the size of our incoming classes from about 525 students to about 560 students,” said Laura Oliveira, vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions at Salve Regina University in Newport. “This step up in class size coincided with an increase in the measurable quality of our new students.”
“Our most recent classes have higher average SAT scores (and) better high school GPAs and more students ranked in the top 25 percent of their high school classes. We’ve also seen a steady increase in the diversity of our incoming students,” Oliveira said. “We’re recruiting with an eye toward retention for all students.”
Experts said securing a degree should be the top priority for students looking to enter the job market.
“In a society that cares about credentials, finishing college matters,” Mark Schneider, former U.S. commissioner of education statistics and now vice president at American Institutes for Research, told the Chronicle of Higher Education, College Completion. “Employers don’t advertise they want six years of college. They want a degree.”