Graduation Rate Hits 70%

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | March 1, 2012

Reed’s four-year graduation rate has jumped to an all-time high of 70%.

Out of 337 freshlings who arrived on campus in the fall of 2007, fully 236 marched with the Class of ’11, the highest four-year rate in the college’s history. “This is wonderful news,” says Mike Brody, dean of student services.

Reed has historically suffered from low graduation rates compared to other private colleges. Rigorous academic standards and a notoriously independent student body are two key factors. Combine those with a traditionally hands-off approach to student life, not to mention Portland’s copious rainfall, and the result was massive attrition. Reed’s four-year graduation rate stood well below 30% in the ’70s and early ’80s (see graph).

The improvement reflects several factors, according to Brody and other college administrators. First, Reed has become more selective. In 2000, the college accepted 68% of all applications; today the proportion is 40%.

In addition, the college has made a sustained effort to support students during their time on campus. “Sometimes it’s a bumpy road to graduation,” says Brody. “We’ve gotten better at helping students navigate the turbulence they encounter.”

The college now offers robust tutoring through the DoJo to help students with the challenging academic program, as well as comprehensive support for students with documented disabilities. The DoJo offers workshops on preventing procrastination, time management, note taking, and other essential skills. Reed also provides a network of support for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Reed has worked hard to encourage a culture of balance, rather than a culture of stress, with a stronger P.E. program, a new counseling center, and a sustained emphasis on wellness.

“Students who could have burned out in the past are now finding healthy ways to take better care of themselves,” Brody says.

Over finals, for example, the college held special yoga sessions in the dance studio, threw a tea party in the Capehart room, offered free acupuncture in the library, and hosted a midnight breakfast in commons. 

One night during finals week—finals week!—your correspondent spotted a clutch of mud-spattered rugby players howling in triumph as they trooped back from the pitch through the freezing drizzle. What better way to prepare for a wrestling match with Thucydides? 

Tags: Institutional, Students