Key Questions

1. How many immediate college enrollees completed a bachelor’s degree within four vs. six years?

2. For bachelor’s degree completers who took longer than four years, how many terms were they enrolled before completing their degree?

3. How different were four-year and six-year bachelor’s degree completion rates…

  • By college attended?
  • By high school attended?
  • By student characteristics?

This joint study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and the To&Through Project points to important differences between the four-year and six-year completion rates for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates who received bachelor’s degrees. It investigates four-year and six-year college completion trends for 2004–14 CPS graduates, as well as patterns of bachelor’s degree completion for students who attended different colleges and different high schools, students with different GPAs and ACT scores, and students with different races/ethnicities and genders. As college application deadlines approach for students across Chicago and across the country, the four-year and six-year college completion rates could guide students' and families' decisions on where to apply and enroll.

Key Findings

  • Fewer than one-third of CPS graduates completed a bachelor’s degree within four years (30%) but 51% of CPS graduates completed within six years (51%; see Figure 1).
    o The national four-year completion rate for 2014 college enrollees was 47%; the six-year rate was 64%.
  • Most CPS college graduates took more than 8 terms to complete a bachelor’s degree
    • 67% of students needed one or two extra terms (completing in 9 or 10 terms);
    • 12% of students took 11 or 12 terms.
  • Four-year completion rates were lower than six-year rates…
    • At all colleges attended by CPS graduates
      • Notably, the difference between the four-year and six-year completion rates varied greatly by college
    • Across all high school types in CPS, including selective enrollment high schools (SEHSs)
      • Even SEHS graduates had six-year completion rates that were as much as 30 percentage points higher than four-year completion rates
    • For all student achievement levels
      • Even students with strong academic qualifications (GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0 and ACT scores over 24) had large differences between their four-year and six-year completion rates, around 22 percentage points
    • For all student groups by race/ethnicity and gender
      • The differences between the four-year rates and six-year rates were generally similar (about 20-30 percentage points) across student groups.

Click below to view a 90-second episode of GO FIGURE, with Alex Usher explaining Figure 3 of this research (December 5, 2023).