Kentucky College Graduation Rates Versus Other States

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State College Graduation Rates Ranked

The graduation rates in the figure below were assembled the Bluegrass Institute from DIPLOMAS AND DROPOUTS, Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don’t) from the American Enterprise Institute.

Assembled by Bluegrass Institute from AEI data

It is clear that the state's university system does not rank well on this statistic, which shows the proportion of the entering college freshman class of 2001 that graduated from the same institution within six years.

While there are some important caveats to this data (see discussion in the AEI report), this important finding should not be summarily dismissed, either.

Poor Preparation of Public School Students in Kentucky

We know that Kentucky has a high level of remedial course requirements for incoming college freshman, as the next figure from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education shows.

from Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Note that nearly one out of two recent high school graduates who go on to college in Kentucky need to take at least one non-credit remedial college course. Also note there has been very little improvement over time in this statistic.

Furthermore, college freshman who need remediation are at much greater risk of failing to graduate.

Thus, in Kentucky, our relatively low college graduation rate compared to other states may be due in significant measure to poor preparation of incoming students.

Situations May be Different in Other States

The situation found in Kentucky may not be the same in other states, however. Discussion in the AEI report indicates that practices within the colleges themselves may be at least partly, if not primarily to blame for low graduation rates across the country.

In addition, the Bluegrass Institute ran a quick check of the correlation between state college graduation rates and performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The results summarized in a Bluegrass Institute Excel spreadsheet indicate that in most cases, states with better public school academic preparation are nearly as likely to have poor college graduation rates as states with poor preparation.