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20 states with the best and worst college grad rates

(Moneywatch) When families are shopping for colleges they often fail to ask about graduation rates. Many parents just assume that their children will graduate in the traditional four years.

That's a dangerous assumption since most students take longer to earn a bachelor's degree. In fact, just 58 percent of students graduate within six years.

College students in some states, however, enjoy a greater chance of getting out on time than others. Students attending state universities in Delaware have the best odds of graduating in six years -- nearly 71 percent do so. In contrast, less than 27 percent of students attending public universities in Alaska pull this off.

Most of the states with the worst graduation track records are located in the South and the western United States. The majority of the best performers are on either coast.

Using figures generated from the U.S. Department of Education database, what follows are the 20 states that have either the highest or lowest six-year graduation rates for students attending public institutions.

States with highest six-year grad rates
1. Delaware 70.8 percent
2. Iowa 69.4 percent
3. Washington 68.9 percent
4. Virginia 68.4 percent
5. New Jersey 66.5 percent
6. New Hampshire 65.4 percent
7. California 65.1 percent
8. Vermont 62.9 percent
9. Illinois 62.5 percent
10. Maryland 62.3 percent

States with lowest six-year grad rates
1. Alaska 26.6 percent
2. Idaho 37.8 percent
3. Arkansas 38.7 percent
4. Louisiana 38.8 percent
5. New Mexico 40.6 percent
6. Nevada 43.6 percent
7. Oklahoma 45.4 percent
8. Tennessee 45.5 percent
9. Kentucky 46.6 percent
10. Utah 46.9 percent

Bottom Line: When researching schools in any state always find out what their graduation rates are. Doing so could ultimately save you thousands of dollars.

Image courtesy of DR Dad (Daniel A D'Auria MD).

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