A new report by Washington-based think tank Third Way revealed that only 55% of students that attend private nonprofit colleges graduate within six years, while public colleges -- not featured in the study -- have a rate of only 46%. New York Times staffer Quoctrung Bui takes a look at the limitations of using graduation rates as a metric.

Bui points out that these rates only measure first-time, full-time students, counting transfer students as dropouts, and ignoring students who take longer than six years. Also schools with higher rates are more selective of students while those with lower rates admit a higher percentage of students with Pell grants:

This is why graduation rates are so tricky: The colleges that have the lowest rates are the very same ones that are taking the biggest chances on students. Is it worth it to admit the students on the margins of educational success when you know half of them will drop out? Especially when the costs of dropping out are so high?

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