"Diplomas and Dropouts" was prepared for the American Enterprise Institute on Public Policy based on data from the U.S. Department of Education. The authors found that graduation rates vary widely among institutions with similar admissions policies and that on average 55 percent of students get degrees within six years.
Generally, the more competitive colleges have higher graduation rates. But the report said the University of Louisville in Kentucky has a 44 percent graduation rate, while James Madison University in Virginia graduates 81 percent of its students in six years, although both are "very competitive" state schools with similar tuition.
"Such differences suggest that while student motivation, finances, and ability matter greatly when it comes to college completion, the practices of higher education institutions matter, too," said Frederick M. Hess, a former high school teacher now with the AEI and lead author of the study.