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An Analysis Of Graduation Rates At Research Universities

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

New Topics in IE Education

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.172.1 - 11.172.16



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Paper Authors


Cindy Veenstra University of Michigan

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Cindy Veenstra is a Ph.D. Candidate in Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. She is a quality consultant and has an interest in applying Quality Engineering techniques to Engineering Education research. Her professional affiliations include ASEE, ASQ and INFORMS. She may be reached at

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Gary D. Herrin University of Michigan

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Gary D. Herrin, Ph.D. is Interim Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education of the College of Engineering and Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan. He has authored over 150 papers in Industrial Engineering. His professional affiliations include ASEE and ASQ. He may be reached at

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Analysis of Graduation Rates at Research Universities Using the Education Trust Database


Many large research universities (i.e. with doctoral programs) have high undergraduate retention rates as measured by their 6-year graduation rates. The variation in graduation rates between schools and the relationship between graduation rates and student preparation levels were examined for these universities. A university was defined as successful with respect to its graduation rate if it had a 6-year graduation rate of 75% of more. With a preference for universities with strong technical programs such as engineering, universities were further selected with a high percentage (25% or more) of students pursuing a STEM major. The Education Trust database system was used to collect these data. Data of particular interest were the overall graduation rates, Under-Represented Minority (URM) graduation rates and the difference in graduation rates between the overall student population and the URM student population. In this research, a high priority was given to assessing whether there was a strong relationship between this difference in graduation rates and the preparation level of the student body as measured by the median SAT and the amount of money that flowed into each program (denoted as student related expenditures in the Education Trust database).

A strong relationship between the differences in graduation rates was observed using multiple regression analysis. A significant difference in this relationship was found between private and public universities. In addition, Data Envelopment Analysis was used to determine which universities were “benchmark” universities or universities that were best in class relative to having a minimal gap between the six year graduation rates of the overall student population and the URM student population. Data Envelopment Analysis is a linear programming technique that establishes an “efficiency frontier” subset of points with maximum output values relative to the input values.

This presentation will demonstrate the techniques that can be used by other researchers to benchmark a group of universities relative to graduation rates. If graduation rates of colleges of engineering were available, the same techniques could be applied. With the use of the Data Envelopment Analysis, an engineering university can compare itself to an appropriate benchmark university and use this information to improve its processes for achieving a higher retention rate of all students.

The Need for a National Database on Graduation Rates for Engineering Colleges

This research supports the need for a database to define the relationship between the graduation rates of engineering colleges and college preparation level as measured by the SAT or ACT scores. For continuous improvement there is a need to benchmark engineering colleges by graduation rates. There is no recognized national database on graduation rates of engineering colleges. Discussions with ASEE support staff indicated that ASEE does not request graduation rates in their college database. Other efforts at identifying a national engineering college database also were futile.

Veenstra, C., & Herrin, G. D. (2006, June), An Analysis Of Graduation Rates At Research Universities Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--434

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