Report Shows Bethel as a Leader for Graduation Rates Among Peers

Erin Kinzel

According to data from the recently released 2018-19 IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) report, Bethel University is a leader among its peers in graduating students of color. Bethel’s overall graduation rate was 71% – 10% higher than that of our peer comparison group, which consists of nine schools in our region with similar size, mission and demographics. 

Graduation rates among students of color were also higher overall vs. our peer comparison group – 29% higher for Asian students, 21% higher for Black or African American Students, 19% higher for Hispanic/Latino students and 37% higher for students of two or more races. (See graph below.)

Graph showing IPEDS 2018-19 graduation rates

Additionally, the IPEDS data shows that economically disadvantaged students are well-supported at Bethel, and have a higher likelihood of graduating. Among the same peer comparison group, the report shows a higher percentage of low-income students at Bethel – 6% more students who are eligible for Pell (federal) grants and 10% more students who are eligible for state/local grants – while having an overall graduation rate that is 10% higher overall. 

President Gregg Chenoweth, Ph.D., notes that in the last five years, Bethel’s student population has grown from 20 to 33% students of color. 

“On Monday the nation will celebrate the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his legacy reminds us that – while we celebrate having become a more diverse campus in the last five years – we also need to continue the work of providing support for students who face challenges of access and retention so they will achieve their goal of earning a college degree,” says Chenoweth.

He also mentions the many strategies the university has related to retention, academic support, student development and spiritual life, to offer a wide range of support services and promote discussion of diversity and inclusion issues. 

A number of retention-focused programs have been initiated at Bethel in recent years. Two include Connect Four and EdSights. Connect Four is a program through Student Life that focuses on helping students form four meaningful connections with others on campus, which contributes to retaining students. EdSights is an artificial intelligence retention software that allows freshmen to opt-in to receive automated text messages. It provides resource articles and information tailored to meet their needs, and also alerts staff members when certain responses indicate students are struggling academically or socially. 

 “The IPEDS report demonstrates that Bethel’s strategies are helping both students of color and students who have economic challenges to overcome problems of access and retention, and ultimately helping them cross the finish line to get their Bethel University degree,” says Chenoweth.

One program aimed at helping students complete their degree is the Dr. Billy Kirk Leadership Award, a scholarship awarded to students of color who demonstrate a commitment to peace, community service and social justice. Tyler Hopkins, a senior Billy Kirk Scholar, says that Bethel professors have played a large role in his college experience.

"My professors have really gone out of their way to make me feel connected to the community and take an interest in my goals," he says. "Professors I don't have for class anymore still reach out and connect with me, to give me information and support that will help me reach my goal of going to law school."

For more information about diversity and inclusion efforts at Bethel, visit For more information about IPEDS and to access postsecondary education data, visit

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