According to a recent article by U.S. News and World Report, Colgate ranks 10th among universities nationwide for four-year graduation rates. The rankings consider undergraduates who started working on their first bachelor’s degree in 2008.
With 89.7 percent of its students graduating within four years according to the report, Colgate joins schools like Carleton College, Georgetown University, and Columbia University on the list of the top 10 schools. The average score of those 10 was 90.1 percent — more than 30 points higher than the average of all 1,235 U.S. News–ranked schools, which stands at 59 percent.
U.S. News cited late changes to majors or unexpected financial hardship as common reasons for students failing to graduate within four years.
Colgate’s high four-year graduation rate comes from an institutional commitment to an eight-semester program, which is built into the Colgate experience and ensures that the university does everything it can to promote timely graduation for its students.
Before arrival day, the university assigns both an administrative dean and an academic adviser to every first-year student. Academic advisers are professors who also teach their advisees’ First-Year Seminar.
Students spend a year and a half seeking out or confirming a choice of major in close consultation with their advising team — including a faculty member within the selected academic concentration. Together, they discuss course options and possibilities for off-campus study that will allow students to complete a program and explore other academic interests.
Within that plan, there is room for flexibility and change as the student learns and evolves as a scholar. “Ultimately, it’s their degree, not ours,” said Ellen Kraly, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of geography and environmental studies. “We give students the tools they need to be owners of their own education.”
“Most students ask good questions regarding what you can do with a major,” added Ken Belanger, a biology professor and associate dean of the faculty. “But we tell them, you’re at a liberal arts university — you’re not limiting yourself by choosing one.” Whether students commit to biology or philosophy, they learn to learn and are ready to enter the graduate program or career path of their choice after commencement.
Administrative deans add an important layer of support often unavailable at other universities. They work closely with faculty colleagues to help identify students who are encountering academic or personal difficulties, and they serve as a conduit to university services — resources that can keep students on track for graduation.
The Office of Financial Aid does its part by carefully outlining up to eight semesters of aid eligibility, coordinating with academic advisers, and also by remaining available and flexible for undergraduates who encounter unexpected difficulties while pursuing their degrees.