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CU-Boulder undergraduate graduation & freshman retention highlights
Fall 2011

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.

Links within the following pages show detail, including tables and graphic plots

Fall 2011 Highlights


  • The overall 6-year graduation rate was 68% for the freshman class entering in 2005, the most recent entering class to have had a full 6 years to graduate. This was the same as last year and equal to the highest rate ever (since tracking began in 1980). 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 2005 had a 6-year graduation rate of 71%, one percentage point below last year’s rate, which equaled the all-time high.
    • • The non-resident graduation rate was 64%, two percentage points higher than the previous class, and the highest since the entering class of 1997. 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 44% for the freshman class entering in 2007, the highest ever by three percentage points. The 42% rate for non-residents and 45% rate for residents were also the highest ever.
  • The one-year retention rate for the freshman class entering in fall 2010 was 84%, one percentage point lower than last year’s, which was the highest since 1990. It has been 83% or 84% for all but two of the last 16 entering classes.
    • The resident retention rate, which has held fairly steady for years, was 86%, one percentage point lower than last year’s cohort. It has been between 85-87% since 1995. The non-resident rate was 81%, the same as last year’s; it has fluctuated slightly more than the resident rate, but has been between 79% and 83% for the last 14 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 4-point gap for the entering class of 2005 was the same as the prior year’s. Women also graduate faster--their four-year graduation rate consistently exceeds men's by 10-15 percentage points. The four-year graduation rate for women who entered in 2007 was 51%, setting a new all-time high for the second consecutive year. The four-year rate of 38% for men was also the highest ever.

Students of color

  • Graduation rates for students of color, while consistently lower than those for whites and showing some year-to-year fluctuations, have been generally increasing in recent years, for each of Asian American, African Americans, and Hispanic/Chicanos. Unfortunately, the graduation rate for students of color from the entering class of 2005 was 4 percentage points lower than the prior year’s, at 60%. The gap between students of color and white students, 8 percentage points, was in the usual range historically, after dropping to a lowest ever 4 percentage points last year.
  • The 6-year graduation rate for Asian-Americans was 64%, similar to most recent years but 7 percentage points lower than last year’s rate, which was a record high.
  • The 6-year graduation rate for African-Americans was 47%, a drop of 17 percentage points from last year’s record high.
  • For Hispanic/Latino students, the 6-year graduation rate of 60%, equaling the all-time high.
  • The 1-year retention rate for students of color in the class entering in 2010 was 83%, one percentage points lower than the prior year’s all-time high. The rates for Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos were each lower than last year, by 1-3 percentage points. Generally over time the retention rate for students of color has been 1 to 3 percentage points below white students; this year the gap was one percentage point.

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 in the cohort entering in 2005, 83% of the top PGPA quartile graduated in 6 years or less, compared to 53% in the bottom quartile. For non-residents, the comparable rates were 71% 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 10 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, fell back to 56-55% for 2008 and 2009, then jumped back to 58% for 2010 and to 59% for 2011. The average over the last 10 years has been 56%. It has been 57% for students who entered as non-residents, 55% for residents; 63% for females, 48% for males.
  • The median time to degree for bachelor’s recipients in 2011 was 3.7 years, which equates to the 4th spring after fall entry. This follows a median of 4.0 years from 2002-10, 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 colleges, but only 4.3 years, or one term beyond 4 years. Students who changed majors or who began with undeclared majors took a median of 4.0 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 2004 through 2011 has been 4.3 years – fall of the 5th year.

Prior-year highlights, from fall:   2010 |  2009 |  2008 |  2007 |  2006 |  2005

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Last revision 05/02/16

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