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The best colleges in the US all have this one thing in common                                                       

Last week, U.S. News & World Report released its rankings of the best universities in the country. The schools at the top of the list are all household-names. Princeton University earned first-place while Harvard University, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Chicago and Yale University follow closely.

All of these schools have a crucial thing in common: sky-high graduation rates. Prospective students often overlook graduation rates when they are considering colleges, but they can be incredibly important measures of a school's quality and cost.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 40 percent of first-time full-time students earn a bachelor's degree in four years, and only 59 percent earn their bachelor's in six years. With more than half of students struggling to graduate in four years, most students are forced to take — and pay for — extra years of college.

Here are the six-year graduation rates at the six best schools in the country according to U.S. News:

Columbia University
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Columbia University

3. Columbia University (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 6,113

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $57,208

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 96 percent

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 4,524

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $49,892

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 94 percent

The University of Chicago
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The University of Chicago

3. University of Chicago (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 5,941

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $54,825

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 93 percent

Yale University campus, New Haven, CT
Craig Warga | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Yale University campus, New Haven, CT

3. Yale University (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 5,472

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $51,400

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 97 percent

Harvard University
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Harvard University

2. Harvard University

Total undergraduate enrollment: 6,710

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $48,949

Average first-year student retention rate: 97 percent

Graduation rate: 96 percent

Princeton University 
Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications.
Princeton University 

1. Princeton University

Total undergraduate enrollment: 5,400

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $47,140

Average first-year student retention rate: 98 percent

Graduation rate: 97 percent

There are many reasons why college graduation rates in the United States are so low. Financial barriers can force students to take time away from their studies. At large universities, many students struggle to even get into classes they need to take in order to graduate. Students who come to college under-prepared may find themselves overwhelmed by the rigor of college and often drop out if they can't find adequate support from their school.

These top schools keep students enrolled by offering generous financial aid, maintaining high faculty-to-student ratios and small class sizes and offering high-quality support services to students.

Considering colleges with high four-year graduation rates is a good way to make sure that you choose a school that supports students and that your financial investment is going to pay off on schedule. Looking at graduation rates over six years can also be helpful, because the only thing that is worse than taking on student debt and not graduating on time is taking on student debt and not graduating at all.

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