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Graduation rates vary widely at SUNY schools

Many students are back to college for the fall semester. For some of those students, where they start their education will also be where they receive their degrees.

New York's SUNY system graduates nearly 65 percent of its students within six years, one of the highest in the nation for public universities. But each SUNY school's results vary widely.

State schools that are a part of Cornell University performed the best, with 94 percent of students graduating in six years. Other colleges, like SUNY Canton and Empire State, saw much lower lower numbers with 32 and 16 percent, respectively.

But Robert French, vice president for enrollment management at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, says the numbers don't tell the entire story.

"If you start out at Cornell, where practically every entering student is going to come from the top five percent of their high school graduating class, those students don't tend to drop out or flunk out of college, no matter where they go."

French says those numbers are influenced by which students are accepted and the college's educational mission.

"A totally open admission community college within the SUNY system who has as their mission the need to offer all students an opportunity to enroll... well, naturally, some portion of those students are going to be underprepared.

He says schools that make it their mission to accept all students have lower completion rates. Locally, SUNY Oswego graduates about 58 percent of its students in six years, while SUNY Cortland and SUNY ESF pass 69 and 67 percent.