Teachers College, Columbia University

Relative Success? Determinants of College Graduation Rates in Public and Private Colleges in the U.S.

By Marc Scott, Thomas Bailey & Gregory S. Kienzl

Amid growing criticism of public universities, there is little discussion of what appropriate institutional evaluation would entail. Six-year graduation rates are commonly used, and public bachelor's granting institutions have lower rates than private institutions, but with the growth in nontraditional college attendance, these can be misleading.

The authors develop a regression analysis as a way to evaluate institutions serving vastly different populations. They do this with a dataset constructed from publicly available sources and focus on the evaluation of public colleges. The analysis shows that public colleges are able to do more with less: With equivalent resources and student populations, public schools would graduate a slightly larger percentage of students than private schools. Since financial resources come from very different sources, the authors evaluate this finding closely.

This article was published in Research in Higher Education, vol. 47.