Graduation and Retention Rates
Every year, colleges and universities like WGU are required to submit data about our institution and our students to the federal Department of Education. This information is then posted on the federal web site, College Navigator where you can search for colleges and compare information. WGU is also required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008, to provide all students and prospective students with specific information about our institution, including the retention and graduate rates on this page.
At WGU, graduation is our goal. It’s the reason we exist: to help every student who enrolls achieve the degree that will turn dreams into realities. So we take graduation rates very seriously. You may have seen graduation rates reported for WGU, including a rate on the College Scorecard of under 20%. That’s because the College Scorecard uses Department of Education data that only counts first-time, full-time students.
In other words, the nontraditional students who make up more than 95% of WGU’s student body are not counted in the College Scorecard data. The vast majority of WGU students have previous college experience before coming to WGU. These students are not considered first-time students, so their success at WGU is not counted in the rate reported by the Department of Education through the College Scorecard.
To put it another way: The College Scorecard data excludes the very students WGU was designed to serve.
WGU’s 6-year undergraduate graduation rate of 50% is well above the national average of 40% for comparable nonprofit, open-admission institutions.1 The university’s goal is to reach a 4-year rate of 50% by 2025.
1 NCES data for 2012 starting cohort, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d19/tables/dt19_326.10.asp
Trailing 12-month averages
While students come to WGU for widely different career reasons, when they graduate, they’re finding the opportunities they sought.
Advancement: In a 2011 survey of nearly 4,000 graduates (by Lighthouse Research), 65% reported they got a raise, promotion, or new job responsibilities as a result of their WGU degree. According to a 2020 Harris Poll survey1, 89% of WGU graduates reported they were employed in their degree field.
Employer Acceptance: When employers were asked how the WGU graduates they’d hired performed on the job, 98% said WGU graduates met or exceeded expectations. 95% said that their WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs, and 96% said that would hire another WGU graduate2.
1 2020 Harris Poll survey of 1,340 WGU graduates and 1,400 national, non-WGU graduates.
2 2020 Harris Poll survey of 300 employers of WGU graduates.
Graduate Satisfaction: A 2020 Harris Poll revealed that 96% of WGU graduates have recommended WGU to others, compared with 82% of those who attended other schools. 95% of WGU grads said they would choose WGU again, compared with 91% of grads from other schools3.
Low Default Rates: Most WGU student borrowers are careful about their school loans and repay them in a timely fashion. WGU’s FY2017 cohort's official 3-year default rate of 4.1% is less than half the national average of 9.7%4, much lower than at many similar institutions, and has actually decreased in recent years, bucking the national trend.
3 2020 Harris Poll of 1,340 WGU graduates and 1,400 national, non-WGU graduates.
4 U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid Office (September 2020)
The overall graduation rate is also known as the “Student Right to Know” or IPEDS graduation rate. It tracks the progress of student who began their studies as full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students to see if they complete a degree or certificate within 150% of “normal time” for completing the program in which they are enrolled.
WGU also reports a transfer-out rate, which is the percentage of the full-time, first-time students who transferred to another institution.
Note that, as mentioned above, WGU has less than 1% of the student population which are first-time, full-time students. The majority (99.6%) of our students began their studies at another college or university and are not tracked for this rate. For this reporting timeframe, 0.3% were counted as “full-time, first-time”.
American Indian or Alaskan Native
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Race or Ethnicity Unknown
Two or More
Received a Federal Pell Grant
Received a Subsidized Stafford Loan who did not receive Pell
Received neither a Pell Grant nor a Subsidized Stafford Loan
Retention rate measures the percentage of first-time students who return to WGU to continue their studies the following year.
Entering year-to-second-year retention rate for first-time (full-time) students: 84%
(Sept/2018 – Aug/2019 to Sept/2019 – Aug/2020)
WGU completers whom have continued their educational pursuits.
In accordance with the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended, WGU must make available information regarding the types of Graduate and Professional education pursuits in which graduates of WGU’s four-year degree programs have enrolled.
Twenty percent of WGU’s four-year degree program graduates (129,892) between July 1, 1998, and February 24, 2021, went on to complete a Graduate or Professional program. Source data: National Student Clearinghouse Subsequent Enrollment and Graduation Survey
WGU Baccalaureate to Graduate Program
WGU’s four-year degree program graduates who continued with WGU and earned a graduate degree.