Ranked National Universities With Low 6 Year Graduation Rates (2018 Stats)

US News ranks 292 of the 399 institutions designated as National Universities.

Among the 292 ranked National Universities, 15 have a 6 year graduation rate below 50%.

Should this failure to graduate over 50% in 6 years be tolerated ?

The 15 National Universities which have a six (6) year graduation rate below 50% are:

Ranked at #179: Gallaudet University in Wash D.C. (47% graduate in 6 years)

218 University of New Mexico (49% graduated within 6 years of initial enrollment)

263 New Mexico State University (47%)

228 CUNY-City College (43%)

228 Indiana University-Purdue Univ.-Indianapolis (48%)

228 Univ. of Massachusetts-Boston (48%)

246 Wayne State (Mich) University (47%)

254 Southern Illinois Univ.-Carbondale (41%)

254 Univ. of Colorado-Denver (48%)

254 Utah State University (49%) although Pell recipient graduation rate is much higher at (63%)

263 Univ. of Alaska-Fairbanks (40%)

263 Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City (48%)

272 Mary Baldwin Univ. (Virginia) (47%)

272 Univ. of Memphis (48%)

272 Univ. of the Incarnate Word (Texas) (49%)

Two (2) National Universities did not report their six (6) year graduation rates:

246 Western Michigan University & #240 Long Island University

Why do these ranked National Universities have such low 6 year graduation rates ?

Most troubling are the two main universities in New Mexico–the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque) & New Mexico State University (Las Cruces).

While New Mexico is a diverse & a poor state, the six (6) graduation rate of Pell grant recipients although lower is not dramatically different at UNM–49% versus 45%; it is , however, significantly lower at NMSU–47% versus 41%.

New Mexico does have, by a wide margin, the lowest high school drop-out rate in the nation at almost 29%.

New Mexico students also enjoy a state funded lottery scholarship with low requirements which funds 8 semesters of college tuition.

Compare the two main universities in the neighboring state of Arizona:

117 Arizona State University graduted 69% within 6 years of matriculation in 2018 including 62% of Pell grant recipients.

117 University of Arizona's numbers are 64% & 60% for Pell grant recipients.

Low admission standards = low graduation rates. Many students admitted to these branch and regional campuses are not at all prepared for college level work.

I’ve always believed that income plays a huge role in graduation rate at publics. A Pell Grant does not come close to covering the cost of attendance, so students have to work to pay bills. Just taking the minimum units to qualify as a FT student means a 5-year plan. Add in the fact that many lower income kids are have to take remedial classes – College Algebra, precalc, and English — and that 5-year plan immediately moves to a 6-year plan.

So, its also a k12 problem. (You want to eliminate remediation in college so kids can graduate earlier, then fix K12. Or just raise standards and force all of those to attend a community college for remedial classes, but that is politically impossible.)

While the state of New Mexico typically ranks at or near the bottom for quality of K-12th grade education, the University of New Mexico admission rate of 52% indicates that there is selectivity. (New Mexico State University admits 66%.)

Nevertheless, Arizona State University admits 85% & the Univ. of Arizona admits 84%, yet both ASU & UArizona have substantiall higher 6 year graduation rates.

Like most lists, this list is of limited value, as it ignores numerous factors which are important but not considered.

In light of its unique mission, placing Gallaudet University on a list of this sort is misleading at best and irresponsible at worst.

And the list also ignores the conditions under which other universities operate. A good example is New Mexico, which has the second highest poverty rate in the nation-considerably higher than Arizona, for example.

The state universities in New Mexico strive to provide educational opportunities to those who are facing significant and lifelong financial challenges.

So for one with tunnel vision, lists are an easy way-seemingly-to judge while relieving one of actually having to consider the physical, social, and economic factors affecting all citizens, including college students.

Admission rates do not tell the whole story. They could have very academically weak applicant pools that are significantly weaker than those of other colleges with similar admission rates.

@ucbalumnus: An examination of the 25% & 75% stats of those admitted to each School should help address your concern.

Same for any concern about poverty. Examine the 15 states with a poverty rate above 15% to see how their main state universities compare with respect to 6 year graduation rates. And remember, very few states have a lotery scholarship available to its high school seniors. The requirements in New Mexico are modest & the benefits are generous (the lottery scholarship covers 8 semesters of tuition).

When examing factors, the issues are not as simple as suggested by another poster.

The 2017 poverty rate by state:

  1. Mississippi = 20.7% poverty rate–the worst in the nation–yet the 6 year graduation rates for the University of Mississippi & for Mississippi State University were 64% & 58% respectively–far above those for the University of New Mexico & New Mexico State University.

  2. New Mexico = 19.61 % poverty rate. The 6 year graduation rates for UNM & NMSU were an absymal 49% & 47% respectively.

  3. Louisiana = 18.84% poverty rate, yet LSU’s 6 year graduation rate was 67%.

  4. Kentucky = 17.39% poverty rate, yet the 6 year graduation rate for the Univ. of Kentucky was 66%. University of Louisville’s 6 year graduation rate was 57%.

  5. West Virginia = 17.25% poverty rate, yet West Virginia University’s 6 year graduation rate was 58%.

  6. Arkansas = 17.06% poverty rate, yet the 6 year graduation rate for the Univ. of Arkansas at Fayetteville was 66%.

  7. Alabama = 17.05% poverty rate, yet the 6 year graduation rates for Auburn University & the University of Alabama were 78% and 72% respectively.

The remaining states with a poverty rate above 15% are Tennessee (15.73%), Arizona (15.72%), Georgia (15.61%), South Carolina (15.55%), Oklahoma (15.51%), Texas (15.11%), & North Carolina (15.01%). Several of the main state universities of these states have 6 year graduation rates well in excess of 80%. None were even close to New Mexico’s shameful 6 year graduation rates of 49% & 47%.

It is too simplistic to try to blame atrocious sub-50% graduation rate on the state poverty rate as all other states with a high rate of poverty perform much better in terms of 6 year graduation rates. And most of these states do not offer a lottery scholarship.

@bluebayou: In addition to Pell grants, many New Mexico residents qualify for & enjoy 8 semesters of tuition free college due to the state of New Mexico’s lottery scholarship.

For those who see no value in lists which illustrate serious concerns, then you can choose to ignore the problem.

A slavish devotion to lists bespeaks an unwillingness to assess the validity of the list.
Specifically, the list has Gallaudet prominently mentioned, ignoring again that school’s unique mission. It is unconscionable that Gallaudet be listed as such, and it reflects how inane the list iteslf is.

And regarding New Mexico, it has, regrettably, the nation’s second highest poverty rate. But, true to its mission, it has state universities which attempt, shockingly enough, to reach out and educate its residents. Per the US Census Bureau, New Mexico is 49.1% Latino. U of New Mexico is 46.5% Latino
https://www.forbes.com/colleges/university-of-new-mexico-main-campus/#1a8ee8115eba and
New Mexico State is 56% Latino; it is clear that both schools are attempting to provide opportunities for residents while still holding them to appropriate academic standards.

And it should be noted that neither of the Mississippi schools come close to providing opportunities for minorities in that state. Specifically, Mississippi by population is 38% African American; U of Miss has an African American enrollment of 14%.
Mississippi State has an African American enrollment of 21.5%.

It is clear that some who post here do not value diversity in higher education.

Regardless, 49% & 47% six (6) year graduation rates should not be tolerated by any students regardless of their race, religion or heritage–or financial status (especially when receiving state lottery scholarships & federal Pell grants).

Making excuses does not solve problems.

Other states have similiar issues of poverty & of serving diverse populations yet their main universities successfully graduate the majority of their students.

However, UNM and NMSU enroll a larger percentage of its students from lower income backgrounds than the other colleges you name. While Pell grant percentage is not the same as poverty percentage (Pell grant eligibility goes up to around the median income, far higher than the poverty line), it does suggest that those other states are not trying to serve students from lower income backgrounds as much as UNM and NMSU are.

Note the inverse relationship between Pell grant percentage and graduation rates:

Pell GR   School
48%  47%  New Mexico State University
37%  49%  University of New Mexico
34%  58%  Mississippi State University
33%  57%  University of Louisville
26%  66%  University of Kentucky
26%  58%  West Virginia University
24%  67%  Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College
24%  64%  University of Mississippi
19%  66%  University of Arkansas
17%  72%  University of Alabama
14%  78%  Auburn University

“Other states have similiar issues of poverty & of serving diverse populations yet their main universities successfully graduate the majority of their students.”

Insert “white” before students and the sentence is correct.

Could the other states have better grad rates bc they pull in higher performing kids from OOS. NM doesn’t, and is serving a population that has generations of poverty and lack of acceptable schooling. Lots of kids going to NM schools are 1st in their family to go to college, and many have to work. There’s been debate about whether to raise our state colleges’ standards, but the schools are here for the population that’s here, and no one wants to keep kids out.

@ucbalumnus: Could you please explain the chart in your post #13 above. I think that it would be helpful to readers. My understanding is that the first column is the percentage of Pell grant recipients attending, while the second column is that university’s overall graduation rate for all students.

US News has a separate column for the 6 year graduation rate of Pell grant recipients which you may find interesting. (I have pointed out Pell grant recipients 6 year graduation rate for several schools in my above posts.)


The University of New Mexico has a fairly generous outreach to non-residents called, if I recall correctly, the Amigo Scholarship which, again if I recall correctly, allows non-residents to pay resident tuition rates.

NMSU has about 26% non-residents, while UNM may have a higher percentage, but I do not know the figure.

I suspect that many NMSU students leave school after the 8 semester lottery scholarship benefits run out, and may also leave to work lucrative oil field jobs when the price of oil is high. But, I really do not know.

The 2010 US Census revealed that New Mexico’s largest population segment identifies as Hispanic or Latino (46%) with Anglos (white, non-Hispanic) coming in second at 41%.

That is what it is.