WASHINGTON, D.C. - Of all first-time college students who enrolled in four-year colleges in 2001, only 53 percent graduated within six years, according to a national study by the American Enterprise Institute. The Michigan average was 52 percent, according to the study.

"Rates below 50 percent, 40 percent and even 30 percent are distressingly easy to find," says the report, according to an article in USA Today. The numbers are based on data reported to the U.S. Education Department by nearly 1,400 schools across the country.

Harvard University posted a 97 percent graduation rate, while Southern University at New Orleans, affected by Hurricane Katrina, reported 8 percent, USA Today reported. In Michigan, of

38 schools included, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is listed as having the highest rate, at 88 percent. Davenport University is listed at 23 percent and Marygrove College at 29.

The data do not account for students who transfer, according to USA Today, and study authors said graduation rates should not be used as a sole measure of quality. However, the study notes that there is "dramatic variation" in rates among similar institutions, which suggests that some schools are more effective than their peers, USA Today reported.

"We are emphasizing transparency," co-author Mark Schneider said, according to USA Today. "It's one of those little secrets that everybody in the industry knows. We're just trying to highlight it."

USA Today, "4-year colleges graduate 53% of students in 6 years," June 4, 2009

American Enterprise Institute, "Diplomas and Dropouts," June 3, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "More money for higher ed doesn't ensure prosperity," Nov. 21, 2006