I’m preparing to apply for two master’s programs. For one of the programs, I asked an advisor how many people graduate each year.

I asked because of the 350 people who apply each year about 120 are admitted. (It’s an online master’s.) This is a very high number to me, especially when compared to the other program I’m considering. So it makes me curious how many people actually graduate, which also can give me insight into competition in the workforce.

She told me they don’t keep records of graduate numbers because it fluctuates from year to year.

This sounds extremely fishy to me. Is this a common practice for master’s programs?

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    Is the official commencement program available online? For many schools in the US, it is. Then you can count yourself. – ff524 Nov 22 '16 at 18:00
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    In the US, schools which offer federal student aid are required to make graduation rates available since 2010. (ed.gov/news/press-releases/…) – Kathy Nov 22 '16 at 18:22
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    "They don't keep records of graduate numbers because it fluctuates from year to year". That's a bunch of bull. This number must be known at several university levels. The bursar surely knows. The registrar surely knows. The dean probably knows, as does the chair of the department. They may have a high attrition rate, and are worried it will reflect poorly. – HEITZ Nov 23 '16 at 2:08
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    120 enrolled per year would be a high number. 120 admitted is not. It could be that only 10% of those admitted actually enrol and take the first class. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 25 '16 at 22:50
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    I have put aside such prevarication in the past and regretted it. Follow this rule of thumb? A professional is always willing to put things in writing. ---But you might be asking the wrong person. Academics rarely keep these numbers. The administrators watch them like hawks. The accountants need those numbers. So figure out the admin structure and ask the right person. In the end though, if they can't answer, don't waste money applying? – jobucks Nov 27 '16 at 17:56

The comments above are all correct that this information is available and you have every reason to want it. In reality, it may simply be that the person you are asking does not have ready access to this information, especially if you are contacting a grad director or some kind of advisor. She could manually do the calculation (or, better, should make a habit of compiling it each year so she can answer such questions). I have directed grad programs and can say that I have access to applications in our online system, so I could tell you how many applied and were admitted, but if I want to know graduation rates, I have to track down each student myself and find out. At the university level, this is probably more straightforward and you can get a rate, but it might not be broken down by program.

So, it may not be fishy. On the other hand, that adviser should know how it is perceived, and should compile the information each year. If it is a university with an entirely online curriculum, it would raise a red flag for me. Especially if it is a for-profit online university. But if it is a major on-campus university with an online offering, it may just be what I described in the first paragraph.

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