U.S. News: Major Public Universities with Highest Freshman Retention Rates

Although the annual U.S. News college rankings are a cause of considerable controversy, the magazine is a source of excellent information.  One useful metric is that for freshman retention–the percentage of entering freshmen who return for the sophomore year.

The freshman retention rate can be somewhat misleading, however, because many of the leading universities also have the most selective admissions requirements, making academic success much more likely.  Another reason the rate can be misleading is that the nation’s elite private universities not only have the highest-qualified students, as measure by test scores and high school gpa’s, but also provide generous financial support that makes it unnecessary for students to work or drop out of school.

Yet this makes high freshman retention rates in public universities all the more impressive, especially when some of these schools achieve high retention rates even though they are not among the most selective in their admissions.  (This is especially so when tuition, fees, and cost of living are above average.)  Delaware, Michigan State, Penn State, Pitt, Ohio State, UC Santa Cruz, and Washington are examples.  Florida and Florida State also have impressive retention rates, but they also offer strong academics along with very low tuition costs.

Below please see the list of the public universities with the best freshman retention rates.  We will list the retention percentage, followed by the percentage of students accepted.

UC Berkeley–97% retention rate, 18% acceptance rate

UCLA–97% retention rate, 22% acceptance rate

North Carolina–97% retention rate, 28% acceptance rate

Virginia–97% retention rate, 30% acceptance rate

Florida–96% retention rate, 44% acceptance rate

Michigan–96% retention rate, 37% acceptance rate

William & Mary–95% retention rate, 32% acceptance rate

UC San Diego–95% retention rate, 38% acceptance rate

Georgia Tech–94% retention rate, 55% acceptance rate

UC Irvine–94% retention rate, 42% acceptance rate

Maryland–94% retention rate, 47% acceptance rate

Ohio State–93% retention rate, 64% acceptance rate

Connecticut–93% retention rate, 45% acceptance rate

Washington–93% retention rate, 59% acceptance rate

Florida State–92% retention rate, 54% acceptance rate

Penn State–92% retention rate, 54% acceptance rate

Rutgers–92% retention rate, 41% acceptance rate

Texas A&M–92% retention rate, 60% acceptance rate

Delaware–92% retention rate, 57%  acceptance rate

Pitt–92% retention rate, 56% acceptance rate

UT Austin–92% retention rate, 47% acceptance rate

Virginia Tech–92% retention rate, 70% acceptance rate

Binghamton–91% retention rate, 43% acceptance rate

Michigan State-91% retention rate, 71% acceptance rate

North Carolina State–91% retention rate, 50% acceptance rate

Clemson–90% retention rate, 58% acceptance rate

Stony Brook–90% retention rate, 42% acceptance rate

UC Santa Cruz–90% retention rate, 61% acceptance rate

Minnesota–90% retention rate, 50% acceptance rate