Technical Degrees Often Take More than Four Years

Students often expect to complete their undergraduate study in four years, but an analysis of the Common Data Set shows that spending an additional year or two is not uncommon.

At a group of selected technical universities (listed in the graph below), the median four-year graduation rate is 69%. This compares to the median of 87% among the list of schools with the top 50 graduation rates, which appears to roughly match that of the top 50 colleges ranked by US News. Aside from high performing private technical schools like CalTech and Carnegie Mellon on the list, the median falls to 66%. Private universities make up the upper half of the list, while all public universities lie within the lower half.

The median five- and six-year graduation rates at technical universities were 82% and 84% respectively. It comes as a surprise that Georgia Tech, a popular college choice among STEM high school students, has a four-year graduation rate of 42%. Getting a degree is the biggest payout of going to college, so students must maintain a realistic vision of what their studies will entail, including the time it will take to graduate.

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