Rate of Students Graduating in Four Years Continues to Decline

Everyone likes to joke about being a “professional college student” these days, but the statement is closer to the truth than one might think. Studies have shown that the rate of undergraduate degrees earned in four years is constantly decreasing although the number of students enrolled in college continues to rise.

Where are all of these students going? While some students graduate within four years, many students are staying much longer, and some aren’t even staying at all.

Renee Corbin, WCU’s assessment coordinator of University Planning, says that the graduation rate here at Western has always been relatively low. In 1998, 1144 degrees were conferred. In the 2001-2002 school year, 1162 degrees were awarded to undergraduate students, which shows that the numbers have remained relatively consistent through recent years.

According to Renee Corbin, Western’s graduation rate has fluctuated slightly over the past several years. “Some years have better turnouts than others,” she says.

Out of 1098 students entering WCU in 1998, 22.7% graduated within the four-year program. In fact, Western’s highest percentage of graduation within four years is a whopping 25.3 percent. The percentage of graduation grows higher in the fifth year category, bringing the rates up into the mid-forties.

Just because the graduation rates are lower does not necessarily imply that students are dropping out of college. If students do not go on to continue their education at Western, they usually transfer out to another school and finish what they had set out to do. There are many reasons why a student might transfer also, including change in major, cost, family problems or location. Corbin says the reasons vary greatly. Most students who do leave a certain school do go on to successfully complete their education elsewhere.

For more information on these statistics, please visit the Western Carolina University Fact Book available online through WCU’s home page