50 private colleges with best, worst grad rates

(MoneyWatch) I recently listed the 50 public colleges and universities with the best and worst graduation rates.

Today I'm sharing the 50 private colleges and universities with the best and worst grad rates. Not surprisingly, some of the nation's most elite schools enjoy sterling six-year graduation rates, with Harvard University perched at the top of the heap. Eighteen of the institutions with superior grad rates are located on the East Coast and include all eight of the Ivy League members.

The private schools with the worst graduation rates are scattered across the country. The nonprofit, private institution with the lowest grad rate is Western Governors University, an online school geared primarily toward nontraditional students. The university was the brainchild of governors in Western states who wanted to help adult students who had left college before earning their degrees.

Private colleges and universities with the best graduation rates

  1. Harvard University, 97.4 percent
  2. Yale University, 96.3 percent
  3. University of Notre Dame 96 percent
  4. Princeton University, 95.7 percent
  5. Brown University, 95.6 percent
  6. University of Pennsylvania, 95.5 percent
  7. Dartmouth College, 95.4 percent
  8. Williams College, 95.1 percent
  9. Stanford University, 94.7 percent
  10. Wesleyan University, 94.4 percent
  11. Northwestern University, 94.4 percent
  12. Duke University, 94.3 percent
  13. Washington University - St. Louis, 94 percent
  14. College of the Holy Cross, 93.3 percent
  15. Vassar College, 93.3 percent
  16. University of Chicago, 92.9 percent
  17. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 92.9 percent
  18. Cornell University, 92.8 percent
  19. Georgetown University, 92.5 percent
  20. Columbia University, 92.5 percent
  21. Bucknell University, 92.3 percent
  22. Rice University, 91.6 percent
  23. Tufts University, 91.1 percent
  24. Boston College, 91 percent
  25. Middlebury College, 91 percent
  26. Private colleges and universities with the worst graduation rates

    1. Western Governors University, 6.5 percent
    2. Long Island University - Brooklyn, 17 percent
    3. Benedict College, 27.5 percent
    4. College of New Rochelle 30.1 percent
    5. Xavier University of Louisiana, 34 percent
    6. Barry University, 35.4 percent
    7. Florida Memorial University, 36.2 percent
    8. Bethune-Cookman University, 36.7 percent
    9. Hawaii Pacific University, 38.9 percent
    10. Columbia College Chicago, 40.5 percent
    11. Lynn University, 42.6 percent
    12. Clark Atlanta University, 43.1 percent
    13. Oklahoma Christian University, 43.9 percent
    14. Long Island University C.W. Post,  44.1 percent 
    15. Lindenwood University, 44.9 percent
    16. Tuskegee University, 46.4 percent
    17. Curry College, 47.4 percent
    18. Campbell University, 47.8 percent
    19. Lee University, 48 percent
    20. Widener University, 48.1 percent
    21. New York Institute of Technology - Old Westbury, 48.2 percent
    22. Liberty University, 48.2 percent
    23. Franklin Pierce University, 49.1 percent
    24. University of Indianapolis, 49.8 percent
    25. Florida Southern College, 51.5 percent

    An invaluable website

    It's hardly a surprise that Western Governors University's grad rate looks nothing like Harvard's. What is important when researching schools is to compare grad rates of similar institutions. These rates vary significantly among peer institutions.

    A great resource is the The Chronicle of Higher Education's microsite, College Completion, where I pulled the data above and which contains grad rates for 3,800 schools.

    Image courtesy of Flickr user Jason Bache

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