10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates

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Want to know the single best measure of quality and affordability?

Look to a college’s four-year graduation rate. This number measures a college's ability to get students the classes and academic support they need to succeed in their education; it also measures the college's ability to deliver that education on time and on budget.

The following ten public institutions excel at this key measure, besting the national average for public colleges (29.9%) by 38 to 55 percentage points.

(Note: Throughout this slide show, "total cost" is an annual total including tuition, room and board, and supplies.)
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 2 of 11

1. University of Virginia

Karen Blaha

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Undergraduate enrollment: 15,595

Four-year graduation rate: 85%

Six-year graduation rate: 93%

Total in-state cost: $21,626

Total out-of-state cost: $45,948

Average debt at graduation: $19,384

Designed as an "Academical Village" by Thomas Jefferson, UVA not only provides an environment that makes for happy campers (96% of freshmen return for sophomore year), but it also helps students get their degree on time. UVA's four-year graduation rate (85%) is the highest among our top-100 best values. Ironically, Jefferson prized education but considered degrees to be "artificial embellishments." UVA did not award bachelor's degrees until 1849, 30 years after its founding.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 3 of 11

2. College of William and Mary

Tara Safaie

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Undergraduate enrollment: 5,898

Four-year graduation rate: 82%

Six-year graduation rate: 90%

Total in-state cost: $23,054

Total out-of-state cost: $45,331

Average debt at graduation: $21,367

Students begin their tenure at William and Mary by walking through the portico of the historic Sir Christopher Wren building, and they conclude it on graduation day by ringing the ceremonial Wren bell. An impressive 82% of students get from portico to bell within four years thanks to W&M's strong academic support, which includes a low (12-1) student-faculty ratio.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 4 of 11

3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University or North Carolina

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Undergraduate enrollment: 18,579

Four-year graduation rate: 76%

Six-year graduation rate: 90%

Total in-state cost: $17,628

Total out-of-state cost: $37,454

Average debt at graduation: $16,165

Add grad rate to the list of measures at which Carolina excels; its four-year grad rate is more than twice the average rate (29.9%) for full-time students at public colleges. Carolina's stellar record across the board -- which also includes moderate cost and generous financial aid ($11,080 in need-based aid a year, on average) -- has made this flagship institution the number-one school in our overall rankings 11 times in a row.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 5 of 11

4. St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Elvert Barnes

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Undergraduate enrollment: 1,982

Four-year graduation rate: 74%

Six-year graduation rate: 77%

Total in-state cost: $26,360

Total out-of-state cost: $38,437

Average debt at graduation: $17,505

Designated an honors college in 1992, this small, liberal arts institution outperforms its Maryland counterparts, including the flagship University of Maryland in College Park, on grad rates and student-faculty ratio (12-1). The college not only nurtures students on their way to a degree but also encourages them to explore the world before graduation. Nearly half of the most recent graduating class studied abroad.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 6 of 11

5. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Corey Seeman

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Undergraduate enrollment: 27,027

Four-year graduation rate: 72%

Six-year graduation rate: 88%

Total in-state cost: $23,953

Total out-of-state cost: $49,625

Average debt at graduation: $27,828

This research university attracts top students -- half of incoming freshmen scored 30 or higher on the ACT -- and supports them with peer and faculty mentoring; all Michigan students benefit from a strong advisory program. The payoff: 96% of students return after freshman year, and three-fourths of undergraduates pick up their diploma within four years.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 7 of 11

6. College of New Jersey

David Erickson

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Undergraduate enrollment: 6,460

Four-year graduation rate: 71%

Six-year graduation rate: 86%

Total in-state cost: $25,564

Total out-of-state cost: $35,373

Average debt at graduation: $27,057

Small classes and a collaborative learning environment (students can choose housing based on their academic focus) contribute to strong grad rates for this liberal arts college, located near Trenton, N.J. Once a teachers' college, the school offers more than 50 undergraduate degrees in seven schools, including engineering, science and business.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 8 of 11

7. University of California, Berkeley

Steve McConnell/UC Berkeley

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Total undergraduate enrollment: 25,540

Four-year graduation rate: 69%

Six-year graduation rate: 91%

Total in-state cost: $29,027

Total out-of-state cost: $51,905

Average debt at graduation: $16,056

This elite public school, which posts the most competitive admit rate on our list (22%), also excels at keeping students engaged and on track: 97% of freshmen return for sophomore year. Although the sticker price is high compared with other public colleges, UC-Berkeley's strong grad rate means that more than two-thirds of students are spared the cost of a fifth or sixth year.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 9 of 11

8. University of California, Los Angeles

Iris Schneider/UCLA

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Undergraduate enrollment: 26,162

Four-year graduation rate: 68%

Six-year graduation rate: 90%

Total in-state cost: $28,174

Total out-of-state cost: $51,052

Average debt at graduation: $16,733

As with UC-Berkeley, UCLA charges top dollar for a public school but gets its students across the finish line expeditiously, saving them money on the back end. During their undergraduate career, students get to share classrooms with other outstanding students, learn from Nobel Prize winners, enjoy the opportunities of a world-class research institution and sample the myriad attractions of L.A.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 10 of 11

9. University of Mary Washington

Jerry Slezak

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Undergraduate enrollment: 4,354

Four-year graduation rate: 68%

Six-year graduation rate: 75%

Total in-state cost: $18,706

Total out-of-state cost: $30,434

Average debt at graduation: $15,600

Located between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., this century-old institution started out as a teachers' college for women, then became the women's college of the University of Virginia and finally arrived at its current status as an independent, co-ed university. Mary Washington's four-year grad rate reflects its small classes and emphasis on teaching. More than 90% of its professors have their doctorate or are fully credentialed in their field; the college does not use teaching assistants.
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10 Best Public Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rates | Slide 11 of 11

10. Miami University (Ohio)

Courtesy

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Undergraduate enrollment: 14,872

Four-year graduation rate: 68%

Six-year graduation rate: 80%

Total in-state cost: $25,393

Total out-of-state cost: $40,565

Average debt at graduation: $27,315

This liberal arts institution gives undergraduates the opportunity to work with senior faculty on research and invites high-performing students to participate in an honors program tailored to their goals. It also offers plenty of support through the Rinella Learning Center, which provides individual and group tutoring, help with study skills and a program for learning disabilities.
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