Enrollment Management > Student Retention

Student Retention at DePaul

There may be no better measure of DePaul's mission than the degree attainment of the diverse student body. Increasing student retention and degree completion is a shared effort that crosses departments and divisions.

Broadly speaking, retention refers to the ability of an institution to successfully graduate the students who initially enroll. Two rates currently serve as the primary measures of institutional comparison when discussing retention. The retention rate reported in government statistics reflects how many first-time, full-time freshmen who start at an institution in fall return for a second year. The six-year graduation rate, another federal government statistic, shows how many first-time, full-time freshmen who begin seeking a bachelor's degree at a four-year institution complete their degree at that same institution in six years.

DePaul's first-year retention rates are consistently high, and the reported six-year graduation rate exceeds the graduation rate that would be statistically predicted given the academic and demographic profile of the student population. Nevertheless, DePaul is invested in finding innovative ways—like the 4 Ps—to improve student outcomes.

2020 Retention and Graduation Data

Institutional Research and Market Analytics (IRMA) produces yearly reports on overall retention and graduation rates, as well as outcomes for DePaul students filtered by academic performance, background characteristics and college. The data presented in the report below represent outcomes for first-time, full-time degree seeking students. See the IRMA Fact File for additional student data.

Retention Trends at DePaul

The following trends reflect data as of 2020. Click on the links below for more detailed information.
  • DePaul's retention and graduation rates in 2020 were at 83 percent first-year retention, 58 percent four-year graduation and 71 percent six-year graduation. While the first-year retention rate is the lowest we've seen since the 2015 cohort, we expected to see a decline given impacts of Covid-19 from anywhere between 3% to 5%, conservatively.
  • First-year retention is consistently high, over 80 percent for the past 20 years. Both the four-year rate and six-year graduation rates have improved significantly over the past decade.
  • DePaul’s first-year retention and six-year graduation rates have exceeded other private four-year institutions around the country for about 15 years—and the difference is not insignificant. DePaul’s first-year retention rate is 11 points above the average first-year retention rate of 75 percent for private four-year institutions, while the average six-year graduation rate is 60 percent compared with DePaul’s rate of 72 percent.

    • The national rates cited above only refer to first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students (i.e., “traditional freshmen”) who start and graduate from the same institution within four to six years. However, more than 20 percent of students who complete a degree do so at an institution other than the one where they started, according to a recent study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Therefore, the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) has been developed as an alternative to the federal graduation rate and is a more accurate representation of outcomes for students seeking associate and bachelor’s degrees. DePaul joined SAM in 2014.
  • DePaul's overall six-year graduation rate consistently exceeds the rate predicted given DePaul's overall institutional and student profile. According to the U.S. News & World Report ranking formula in the 2019 edition, using 2017-18 data, DePaul's predicted graduation rate was 62 percent and our actual rate was 72 percent. 

    • Institutional graduation rates are highly predictable from the profile of the student body enrolling at the institution; specifically, much of the variance in graduation rates at four-year institutions can be explained by the academic, demographic and socioeconomic profile of the undergraduate student enrollment at those institutions as well as other institutional attributes such as residential capacity.

Learn More

Read more in the "Trends in Freshman Retention and Graduation" annual report.