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CU-Boulder undergraduate graduation & freshman retention highlights
Fall 2009

For first-time full-time new freshmen entering summer or fall terms
(full time = 12+ hrs, counted at end of the fall term)

Students graduating from institutions other than CU-Boulder are NOT counted in the graduation rates.

Rates are updated each October with fall census enrollment information and
degrees posted through the prior summer term.

Fall 2009 Highlights


  • The overall 6-year graduation rate was 67% for the freshman class entering in 2003, the most recent entering class to have had a full 6 years to graduate. This was the same as the rate for the previous two entering classes, one percentage point higher than the three classes before that, and almost equal to the peak of 68% for the fall 1997 entering class. The 6-year graduation rate is the standard used in federal and comparative reporting.
    • Freshmen who entered CU-Boulder as Colorado residents in the class entering in 2003 had a 6-year graduation rate of 71%, the same as the previous year’s class and one percentage point lower than the all-time (since tracking began in 1980) high of 72% set by the 2001 entry class.
    • The non-resident graduation rate was 62%, one percentage point higher than the previous class. The rate has been between 61% and 65% for each entering class since 1986, with the high figure achieved by the entering classes of 1996 and 1997. Non-residents are further from home and pay substantially higher tuition than residents; both factors contribute to their lower graduation rate.
  • The 4-year graduation rate was 40% for the freshman class entering in 2005, one percentage point lower than the all-time high achieved by the previous four classes. The 39% rate for non-residents equaled the all-time high and was two percentage points higher than the previous year’s class, while the 41% rate for residents was two percentage points lower than the previous class’s all-time high.
  • The one-year retention rate for the freshman class entering in fall 2008 was 83%. It has been 83 or 84% for 13 of the last 14 entering classes.
    • The resident retention rate, which has held fairly steady for years, was 86%. The non-resident rate was 79%; it has fluctuated slightly more than the resident rate, but has been between 79% and 83% for the last 12 years.
  • We are now able to track students who leave CU-Boulder for other institutions through the National Student Clearinghouse, and to calculate an “enhanced graduation rate” – students in an entering freshman cohort who graduate either from CU-Boulder or from another two- or four-year institution. For the entering class of 2001, the latest available at the time we last analyzed data from the Clearinghouse, 99% were able to be matched by the Clearinghouse. Of these, 68% graduated from CU-Boulder within 6 years, 10% from another 4-year institution, and 1% from a 2-year institution, making the enhanced graduation rate 79%. An additional 10% were still enrolled either at CU-Boulder or other institutions, meaning that only 11% of the original entry cohort had not either graduated or were still working on degrees. Of transfer students who entered CU-Boulder in 2001, 67% graduated from Boulder by 2007, 9% from other institutions, for an enhanced graduation rate of 77%. (Total does not match the sum of the individual elements due to rounding.) An additional 7% were still enrolled at Boulder or elsewhere.


  • Six-year graduation rates for women are consistently higher than those for men by 3-6 percentage points. This has been true for all classes entering since 1986, although rates for men and women were about equal before that. The 3-point gap for the entering class of 2003 was equal to that for the previous class, which was lower than for any entry class since 1997. Women also graduate faster--their four-year graduation rate consistently exceeds men's by 10-15 percentage points.

Students of color

  • Graduation rates for students of color are lower than those for whites. However, six-year graduation rates for more recent freshmen students of color, while showing some year-to-year fluctuations, are clearly higher than those for earlier classes, for each of Asian American, African Americans, and Hispanic/Chicanos.
  • The 6-year graduation rate for students of color in the freshman class entering in 2003 was 59%, two percentage points lower than the previous class’s all-time high. The 6-year graduation rates of Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and African-Americans have all shown long-term gains, but all were lower for the 2003 class than for the previous class, by 1, 3, and 4 percentage points respectively.
  • The 1-year retention rate for students of color in the class entering in 2008 was 80%, the same as the previous year; the long-term trend in retention among students of color continues to be steady, and generally 1 to 3 percentage points below white students.

Predicted grade-point average (PGPA)

  • PGPA is a measure of academic preparation that projects the student’s first-year UCB grade-point average based on high school grades and standardized test (SAT, ACT) scores, using formulas empirically derived from data on earlier freshman classes. As designed, PGPA is related to academic performance and thus ultimately to graduation rate, particularly for Colorado residents. Among residents, 81% of the top PGPA quartile graduate in 6 years or less, compared to 55% in the bottom quartile. For non-residents, the comparable rates are 67% and 58%. (Non-residents, more often than residents, have reasons other than academic performance for not staying through graduation.)

Pell Grant recipients and first-generation college students

  • Graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients (who have relatively low financial resources) and first-generation college students are generally lower than the overall rate, by several percentage points. This is true for both residents and non-residents. All these factors – being a Colorado resident, a Pell recipient, and a first-generation student – are positively correlated to each other, so the independent relationships of each factor to graduation rate can be hard to interpret from simply comparing graduation rates for the various categories. In an attempt to untangle these factors, we did a logistic regression analysis, looking at the relationship between graduation rate and each factor, while controlling for each of the others (and also controlling for predicted GPA). The results indicate that being a non-resident, a Pell recipient, and a first-generation college student each is related to a lower graduation rate, by anywhere from 5 to 11 percentage points.

Time to degree

  • Graduation rates are typically reported using 4-year, 5-year and 6-year rates. The rates represent the percentage of students who entered in a given fall (including prior summer entry) as new full-time freshmen and who graduated in four, five or six years. Graduation rates are used for comparisons among institutions, among groups of students (e.g., resident versus non-resident or by ethnicity), and for comparisons over time. For example, compared to Colorado residents, non-residents (at entry) have lower overall graduation rates (from 5-9 percentage points lower on the 6-year rate).
  • Graduation rates, however, do not answer the question of how long it takes, on average, for students to graduate. At CU-Boulder, graduation in four years is still the norm. If you look at a given cohort of bachelor’s degree recipients who for a given fiscal year who originally entered as first-time, full-time summer/fall freshmen, over half of them graduate in four years or less. This percentage climbed steadily from 52% for FY 2002 bachelor’s recipients to 58% for 2007, before falling back to 55% for 2008 and 2009. The average over the last 8 years has been 55%. It has been 57% for students who entered as non-residents, 54% for residents; 62% for females, 48% for males.
  • he median time to degree for bachelor’s recipients in 2002-09 was 4.0 years, which equates to the 4th summer after fall entry. It was 3.7 years for females – equivalent to the 4th spring – and 4.3 years for males. It was slightly longer for students who changed majors, changed colleges, and/or started as undeclared majors, but for none of these groups was the median over 4.3 years, or one term beyond 4 years. All these medians have been very stable over time.
  • Mean time to degree is slightly longer than the median, because while there is a real lower limit – very few can graduate in, say, 3 years or less – there’s very little upper limit, and a few students might take 6 years, 7 years, or even longer, and we follow them for as long as it takes. Even so, the mean time to degree from 2002 through 2009 has been 4.3 years, with no yearly cohort longer than 4.4.

Prior-year highlights, from fall:   2008 |  2007 |  2006 |  2005

Questions? E-mail

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Last revision 05/02/16

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