The College's historic mission of educating "good men and citizens in an atmosphere of sound learning" culminates in graduates ready to contribute in measurable ways to the social fabric of an increasingly interdependent world. The College's various academic and extra-curricular programs clearly do produce students who are "good men and good citizens" with a progressive twenty-first century liberal arts education.

The College's established measures of student achievement include various widely used retention metrics. Additionally, the College measures adherence to the historic Honor Code on a year-year basis as a measure of student achievement and development. The following goals for Student Achievement order the work of a number of College Units under the direction of the Dean of Faculty’s Office.

H-SC Goals for Student Achievement

1. Student Success Dynamics (Retention and Graduation Rate)

Rationale: As a measure of student success, the College carefully monitors student retention and graduation rates. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness tracks all students longitudinally and keeps records of each student’s enrollment status from fall to fall each year since 2001. This data is collected using our enrollment management system, Jenzabar, allowing us to also track the date and reason for withdrawal. Retention rates provide a metric early in a student's educational career on how they are proceeding to on time degree completion, and retention rate is a standard measure of success as well as indicator of student achievement in higher education.

Thresholds for Retention Rate: The College has identified a threshold for freshman to sophomore student retention as being within 6 percentage points of meeting and/or exceeding the IPEDS average freshman to sophomore retention rate for private non-profit colleges nationwide. This threshold was selected based on an average of private not-for profit institutions in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System  (IPEDS) freshman to sophomore student retention rate. The College selected this measure since IPEDS data bears the scrutiny of the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), and it is examined locally before submission to offer a greater degree of data validation. It is also important to note that the IPEDS retention rate value is not disaggregated by gender, so this variable contains both male and female retention.

At Hampden-Sydney, our retention rate overall has shown continuous improvement with a current retention rate (entry cohort 2020) of 90.0%. The current comparison year (entry cohort 2019) resulted in a retention rate of 78.5%. The most recent IPEDS retention rate of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who return to the same institution the following fall at a 4-year, private non-profit degree-granting institution (entry cohort year 2019) was 81.0% (includes both male and female students). Thus, Hampden-Sydney's freshman to sophomore retention rate of 78.5% falls within the threshold range of 74%-81% and was met.

Table 1 - Retention Rate Comparison (entry cohort 2019)*

H-SC retention rate

Peer institutions*+

IPEDS private not-for profit threshold range*



81.0% (male & female incl)

* Peer and IPEDS retention rate is overall (include both male and female). Male only comparison is unavailable.
+ Peer institution retention rate retrieved June 28, 2022 from

Thresholds for Graduation Rate: The College has established the six -year male graduation rate threshold as meeting the average male graduation rate (150%) standard time for private not-for-profit institutions. This threshold is based on the average Graduation Rate (150%) standard time of private not-for-profit institutions in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which does disaggregate graduation rate by gender. The College selected this measure since IPEDS data bears the scrutiny of the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), and it is examined locally before submission to offer a greater degree of data validation. As a college for men since our inception almost 250 years ago, the College focuses on comparisons to male student graduation rates with our peers and nationally.

Hampden-Sydney’s graduation rate compared to other male student graduation rates are again above average. Our most current comparison year (entry cohort 2014) six -year graduation rate is 71.0%. The most recent  IPEDS six -year graduation rate (150 percent graduation rate) for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year, private nonprofit degree-granting institution (in fall 2014) average for the private not-for-profit group was 64% for males, 60.0% for males at all institutions. Furthermore, the six-year graduation rate for our peer group was 63.8%.

Table 2 – Six-year Graduation Rate Comparison (entry cohort 2014)

H-SC 6-year graduation rate

Peer institutions

IPEDS private not-for profit, male only 6-year graduation rate




2. Job and Graduate School Placement Rates

Rationale: The Ferguson Career Center surveys and tracks all graduates longitudinally and keeps records of employment  following H-SC graduation. Substantially all of the graduates of Hampden-Sydney College graduate with some debt from student loans and enter into repayment approximately six months following graduation. Thus, the College has established a priority to enable students who do not enter graduate or professional school immediately upon graduation to enter the workforce to begin paying off their student loans to avoid default, as this is a direct connection to our Mission and developing our students into “good citizens”. The College has been very intentional about establishing an alumni network due to the fact that the College has been in existence for nearly 250 years, is the tenth oldest college in the United States, and has many influential alumni throughout the United States and internationally. Alumni are vitally interested in the success of Hampden-Sydney College graduates and are in regular communication with the Fergusen Career Center seeking interns and permanent employees.

Thresholds for Job and Graduate School Placement: The College has established the threshold/expectation that students in upcoming cohorts will be gainfully employed within six months of HSC graduation, or pursuing a graduate or professional degree within 18 months of separation from the College at the same rate as the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) First Destination Career Outcomes Rate for bachelor’s degree graduates in the Southeast region for each graduation cohort. NACE First Destination Career Outcomes survey defines the Southeast region as the states of West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. This threshold was selected because the NACE First Destination survey is the industry standard for collecting job and graduate school placement data, providing a comprehensive and robust dataset. Furthermore, the threshold comparison focused on the Southeast region because approximately 90.9% of our students originate from the southeast region as defined by NACE any given year, and approximately 81% remain in the Southeast region once leaving HSC. For purposes of transparent comparison, it should be noted that the NACE First Destination Career Outcomes value is not disaggregated by gender and contains both male and female career outcomes.

Despite the hurdles of the COVID-19 pandemic, our job and graduate school placement rate has remained relatively strong at 82.3% for 2019-20 graduates. The most recent comparison year available in NACE First Destinations survey is Career Outcomes for 2019-20 graduates with bachelors degrees in the Southeast region is 77%.

Table 3 – Job & Grad School Placement Rate Comparison (graduation year 2019-20)

H-SC Job & Grad school placement rate

NACE 1 st Destination Survey (SE region)

NACE 1 st Destination Survey (bachelor’s degree)




3. Student Default Rates 

Rationale: The College closely monitors the overall student default rate and chose to tie this measure to the element of the Mission Statement which calls for developing students as "good citizens". The College is provided access to data on former students that fall within that cohort default year, and said students may or may not have graduated from Hampden-Sydney College. The College has maintained a historically low cohort default rate due to the use of endowment funds dedicated largely to scholarship aid. The rationale behind choosing this as a metric to monitor meeting the Mission is multifaceted. Students who pay their loans become active alumni who contribute in many ways to the future of the College; they make positive contributions to the social fabric of society; sustain the economy; are eligible to enter graduate and professional school; support philanthropic causes; and can afford to educate their children and support their families.

Threshold for Default Rate: The threshold chosen for success is below the  National Private College Default rate in a given year, and the College has historically been at or below that rate since FY2013. The national threshold for the last four reporting years has been 5.0% (FY2018), 6.3% (FY2017), 6.3% (FY2016), and 6.6% (FY2015). Hampden-Sydney's cohort default rate has been 4.7% (FY2018), 4.4% (FY2017), 6.3% (FY 2016), and 3.5% (FY2015).  It is important to note that the US Department of Education does not subject a school to loss of Direct Loan Program and/or Federal Pell Grant Program eligibility unless a school's default rate is 30% or higher. The threshold set by the College far exceeds the expectation established by the federal government for institutions.

Table 4 – Student Loan Default Rate Comparison

Fiscal Year

H-SC Loan Default Rate

National Private Liberal Arts Threshold













The Goals for Student Achievement page is updated annually. The most recent update was completed on June 28, 2022.