Colleges with high on-time graduation rates are also often the same schools that accept only high-achieving students to begin with. This leads us to ask: are the high graduation rates due to the student, or the school?
That's why we compare actual graduation rates vs. expected.
To do this we developed a regression (renewed each season) that we use to impute an expect graduation rate by looking across all colleges and their graduation rates and the caliber of the students they accept.
For example Harvard has an extremely impressive overall graduation rate of 97%! But if you compare that to their “expected” graduation rate based on the caliber of the students who attend, they are performing about what would be expected.
Now compare that to Syracuse University. Their overall graduation rate is 81.7%, but they are actually graduating students at a much higher rate than one would expect when the academic achievement of the students is factored in.
Based on how similar students do at other institutions, we would have expected a 6-year graduation rate of 68.1%. This evidence suggests Syracuse is doing a lot to help their students perform beyond expectations.