When selecting a college, it is critical to know the school’s graduation rate.  These are measured in 4-, 5-, and 6-year rates of graduation.  The benchmark is 6 years, believe it or not (that’s a lot of fraternity parties!), but of course you’ll want to know the 4-year rate as well.  The longer your child spends in college, the more you are paying in tuition.

Here’s a dirty little secret: private colleges have better graduation rates than state schools, on average.  So while the sticker price at private schools may be much higher, once financial aid and grad rates are factored, the end price you pay might be less at a private college, or at least it levels the financial playing field.

I just read a story posted on AOL News  about how schools should publish grad rates and make these numbers available to students and parents.  I agree.  The authors are from the American Enterprise Institute, which might make my Mom shudder (she’s a Smith grad and a true liberal), but they make a good point.  If parents and students know a college’s graduation rate then they might make different college choices.  The Department of Education posts 6-year graduation rates upon completion of the FAFSA, but that’s not enough since many families don’t bother applying for financial aid (they should!), thereby leaving millions on the table.  A great resource for graduation rates is The Education Trust.  Check ’em out at http://www.collegeresults.org/

Selecting a college should be about much more than where your friends go, the school’s athletic success, or the cleanliness of the dorms.  While these may be important to you, your search should start with academics, but it should not end there.  Parents need to investigate the degree of financial aid generosity.  Some schools are more generous than others, and this can make the difference in graduating in 4, 5, or 6 years, or not at all.

For more information on graduation rates or financial aid generosity, register for an upcoming workshop by visiting http://www.LearnCollegeFunding.com/.

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