A bachelor’s degree is still a significant benefit in many sectors of the US corporate market. Graduates from colleges typically make more money than non-graduates, and they are also more likely to find employment in the first place.
At the same time, many Americans claim they cannot afford to earn a four-year degree or that they simply do not want to.
Here are some notable details regarding American recent graduates.
General Stats: US College Graduates and Graduation Rates
- As of 2020, there is an average of 4.09 million students who have graduated from colleges in the US.
- Among them, there are 1.9 million students who earned bachelor’s degrees and 989,000 are graduates with an associate degree.
- 49,8% of college graduates earn bachelor’s degrees.
- The percentage of students who hold associate degrees is 23.5%.
- Over the past 10 years, the rate of graduates has increased at a yearly rate of 15%.
- In 2019, there were around 1 million postgraduate students who held a degree.
- A report says that in the year 2040, the number of graduates in the US with at least a graduate degree will be around 60% of the population due to the rising percentage of people with college degrees.
- There are more than 1,018,233 graduates who took the associate degree in 2020.
- In 2020, statistics say that 2,038,431 graduate students took bachelor’s degrees.
- The master’s degree holders in 2020 were 843,449, i.e 20.6% of all.
- 4.6% of all graduate students earned a doctorate or professional degree. This counts 190,178 students overall.
- There are 13.9% more doctorate or professional degree holders than they were in 2019.
- Comparing the bachelor’s degree, there are 37.3% more bachelor’s degree holders in 2020 than in 2010.
- For 2-year graduate institutions, the graduation rate is 31.6%.
- For students among the 4-year institutes, the graduation rate is 4+6.2%.
- According to the data from Educationdata.org, it is estimated that only 1 out of 4 students are going to graduate after four years.
- Research states that dropping out of college degree leads to having $25,000 less income per year as compared to the graduates and a higher chance of becoming unemployed.
- There are only 18% of bachelor’s degree graduates finish their degree within 4 years.
- It is seen that the graduation rate at public schools has increased by 15% since 2010.
Graduate Rates by Institution (Updated Data)
- It is noted that public colleges have a graduation rate of 62%.
- Around more than 42% of the students graduate from public four-year colleges without any student debt.
- 78% of the students graduate with less than $30,000 in debt.
- The student graduation rate for private nonprofit colleges is 68%.
Here are detailed stats on first-time bachelor’s degree students who graduated within 6 years (2020).
|Institute Type||Percentage of graduate students|
- As per the data from BestColleges.com, in 2021 there were 42% of the students graduated within four years from a public college.
- 59% of the students graduated from public colleges within 5 years.
Let’s have a look at the graduation rate at the Four Year institutes within four years, five years, and six years.
|Public Colleges||Non-Profit Colleges||For Profit||All school Types|
- Public two-year Community schools tend to have low graduation rates than four-year schools.
- Among the students who started with community colleges, 31% graduated within six years.
- 8% of them completed their degree at a four-year school.
College Graduates In The U.S. by Demographics
Following are some important facts and stats that explain the demographics of college graduates. These are varied according to age, gender, and race.
In general, during enrollment, one’s age does affect their likelihood of graduating from college. At the same time, a pattern suggests that enrollment will rise for all age groups, from 22 to 34.
Most of the students in the college are between the ages of 18 to 24. But there is also a huge enrollment of older adults seen in recent years.
- The average percentage of students with age of 18 years or younger who enroll in a bachelor’s degree is 8% and they graduate within 5 years.
- Students who are 19 years old and who graduate within 5 years are 9%.
- There are 4% of students who are 20 to 23 years old who enroll for bachelor’s degrees and graduate within 5 years.
- 4% of the students who are between 24-29 years old graduate within 5 years.
- There are 16.4% of students who are 30 years old and have a graduation rate of 16.4%.
- 76.2% of teenagers enroll in college every year.
Since the turn of the 20th century, women had made significant progress in overcoming gender inequality in the educational system. In many other fields, including the number of people with bachelor’s degrees, women began to surpass men in 2015.
It is noted that most of the postsecondary students are females. Following are some of the few statistics based on the nonbinary genders.
- In 2019-2020, there is a majority of women who earned associate degrees with 625,154 students than male students.
- According to the data from 2021, 35% of female and 32% of male students graduated from four-year colleges.
- Moreover, 67% of female students and 61% of male students graduated from four-year colleges.
- Male students tend to drop out from college with 59% within 6 years.
- Unlike the male graduation rate, female students have 65% of the graduation rate.
- Women at public colleges graduate with a 64% college graduation rate while men at the public college have 58% college graduation rate.
- Talking about private students, female students from private colleges have a graduation rate of 70%. And male students from private colleges have a graduation rate of 64%. (non-profit private college)
- Men and women who graduate with degrees from for-profit colleges make up 26% and 25%, respectively.
- 80.9% of bachelor’s degree recipients in 1900 were men.
- In 1900, women made up just 19.1% of graduates.
- Beginning in 2015, there were more female than male bachelor’s college graduates.
- Males graduated at a rate of 59%, while females did so at a rate of 65%.
- In public universities, the graduation rate for men was 58% and for women it was 64%.
- Male graduation rates were 64% and female graduation rates were 70% for private nonprofit colleges.
- Male graduation rates from private for-profit institutions were 26% compared to female graduation rates of 25%.
Here is the complete statistics by Gender
|Type of college||Men||Women|
Ethnicity and race is the major factor in the educational aspect in the US.
(Source: Educationdata.org 2021.)
- According to the NCES stats, white and Asian college students tend to graduate within six years more than Hispanic and black students in the US.
- Asians who study abroad have the biggest percentage share in terms of graduation rate.
- According to the latest data, Asian, non-US, and White resident students have above-average graduation rates.
- As compared to the Asian resident students, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Latino, Hispanic and multiracial students have below-average graduation rates.
Let’s have a look at rates of graduation within 2 years and 4 years of school program time by Race, 2020.
|Race||2 Year Program||4 Year Program|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||30%||42%|
|Two or more races||29%||60%|
- The five-year graduation rate for Caucasian or White students in bachelor’s programs is 62.2%.
- 2,410,070 ( 59.1%) graduates from colleges and universities are White or Caucasian.
- The five-year graduation rate for Hispanic or Latino students in bachelor’s programs is 41.5%.
- Latinos and Hispanics make up around 532,720 or 13.1% of college graduates.
- Similarly, for Black or African American students, the graduation rate for a bachelor’s degree is 40.5%
- Only 1% of US students are Black or African.
- The graduate rate for nonresidents is 6.7%, with 272,410 students.
- The five-year graduation rate for Asian or Pacific Islander students with bachelor’s degrees is 69.3%.
- Asian or Pacific Islander graduates make up 6.6% of the total.
- The five-year graduation rate for students of two or more ethnicities enrolled in bachelor’s programs is 50.4%.
- 116,350 college grads (2.9%), identify as two or more races.
- The graduation rate for American Indian or Alaska Native students is 39.3% for bachelor’s degrees.
- In rural areas, only 10.2% of residents have graduated from college or have earned an associate’s degree.
- In rural areas, 4.5% of residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- In the United States, 13% of adults hold an associate’s degree.
Following is a detailed structure of percent of graduates by race.
|Race/Ethnicity||Associate Degree||Bachelor’s degree||Master’s degree||Doctorate/ Professional degree|
|White or Caucasian||7%||51%||7%||6%|
|Hispanic or Latino||40.1%||45.3%||12.3%||2.3%|
|Black or African American||3%||2%||5%||1%|
|American Indian/Alaska Native||9%||9%||5%||7%|
College Graduates In The U.S. by State
A maximum number of graduates each year in most states hold bachelor’s degrees. Business degree courses are widely held by graduates of bachelor’s and master’s programs across the country, which indicates that they are becoming more valuable.
States in the United States have different college graduation rates. The states with the highest graduation rates are Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, while those with the lowest rates are New Mexico, Alabama, Wyoming, and Arizona.
The most recent figures on the number of college graduates by the state are listed below.
- California is home to 12% of all college graduates each year.
- Graduates from the District of Columbia are most inclined to have master’s degrees.
- In Wyoming and New Mexico, the majority of students hold associate’s degrees.
- The highest percentage of graduates with master’s degrees come from New England and the Midwest.
- The majority of graduates who hold doctoral and professional degrees reside in midwestern states.
- Three of the top five US cities with the highest number of college graduates are found in western states, suggesting that western states may actually attract more graduates than students.
- In Boulder, Colorado, 5% of the population holds a degree.
- In Ann Arbor, Michigan, 4% of the population holds a degree.
- In Lawrence, Kansas, 2% of people are graduates.
- In Corvallis, Oregon, 4% of the population has a college degree.
- In San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, California, 8% of the population has a college degree.
Following are the states with the most college graduates.
|State||Number of Graduates|
- Alaska has the lowest number of graduates in the US.
- Wyoming and Montana are the second lowest cities with the number of graduates with 5833 and 9837 graduate students respectively.
Here is detailed information on the states with the lowest number of college graduates.
|State||Number of Graduates|
- According to the 2021 data, Rhode Island has the highest average college graduation rate with 74% of graduates.
- Moreover, New Mexico has the lowest average graduation rate with only 39% of graduates in 2021.
Following are the states with the highest average college graduation rates in 2023.
|State||Average Graduation Rate, 2023.|
|District of Columbia||59.8%|
College Graduates In The U.S. by Major
There are certain major disciplines that affect the college degree graduation rate. Many students in the US graduate from college with a STEM degree.
Business and healthcare degrees come in second place after STEM degrees.
Following is a breakdown of the number of graduates and the Majors:
|Majors||Number of Graduates||Percentage of Graduates|
|Liberal arts and sciences||444,754||11.1%|
- 18.3% (730,394) of college students hold a degree in the STEM fields.
- There are 39.3% of students with associate degrees in liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities.
- 17% of the students get associate degrees with majors in health professionals and related programs.
- The business major holds 11.6% of the total students with an associate degree.
- Similarly, 15.5% of college graduate students earn bachelor’s degrees in business.
- Major in healthcare and related programs with a bachelor’s degree contains 12.4% of students.
- While social sciences and history bachelor’s degree holders are 8.1%.
- Talking about the master’s degree, 23.4% of students have a master’s degree in business, 17.8% of them get their master’s degree in education, and 15.3% of students master in healthcare.
- The doctorate degree in healthcare consists of 43.6%. At the same time, law and legal studies hold 18.8% of the students with doctorate degrees.
- There 6.9% of the students get their doctoral degree in education.
Here is a detailed number of college graduate students with Major and type of degree
|Major||Associate Degree||Bachelor’s degree||Master’s degree||Doctorate Degree|
|Liberal arts and sciences||397,926||44,262||2,473||93|
Graduation Rate by College in the U.S.
Higher graduation rates are found in some colleges than others; for instance, Ivy League students are much more likely to complete their degrees in six years than students at less prestigious public or for-profit institutions.
The top 10 American colleges with the highest and lowest graduation rates are listed below.
|College/Institute||4-year graduation rate||6-year graduation rate|
|University of Notre Dame||–||97%|
|Columbia University in the City of New York||85.72%||96.21%|
|University of Chicago||90.72%||95.98%|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||86.63%||95.58%|
Colleges with the lowest graduation rates are following
|College/Institute||4-year graduation rate||6-year graduation rate|
|Granite State College||1.33%||6.67%|
|Western International University||–||11%|
|Arkansas Baptist College||–||12.46%|
COVID-19 and The Graduation rate (2023 Update)
Due to the pandemic, it is seen that undergraduate enrollment has decreased in the last 2 years.
- The research from NSC states that the undergraduate enrollment for 2021 was lower by 2.7% than for fall 2020.
- It is estimated that with the lower enrollment and high dropping rate due to covid 19 situations, the graduation rates could fall in the next few years.
Key Takeaway: College Graduate Statistics for 2023
College students can increase their chances of graduating on time by working closely with their academic advisor, taking advantage of financial aid, and choosing a field of study that interests them.
And even though many students don’t graduate within the standard time frame for their program, a degree is still within reach — it’s possible to extend a degree program or even come back for a degree later on in life.
I hope this article helped to understand college graduate statistics in the US. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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