New Measures of College Success

By Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week

             How can community colleges nearly double their overall graduation rates nearly overnight?

            Through creation of a combined “graduation and transfer rate” which would take into account both students who graduate from two-year schools and those who don’t graduate but transfer to a four-year institution.

            Creating such a measure is the central recommendation of the Education Department’s Committee on Measures of Student Success, which on Tuesday approved a draft report recommending that ED change the way it tracks graduation rates and other measures of success at community colleges.

            According to the American Association of Community Colleges, implementing the more comprehensive measure would result in community college increases from 22 percent to 40 percent.

            “AACC has long maintained that the exclusion of transfer from the federal graduation rate has created a grossly distorted, and overly negative, picture of community college performance, given the centrality of transfer preparation to the community college mission,” AACC said in a statement.

            Nearly two years in the making, the report states that current measures of graduation rates don’t capture the multiple missions of community colleges.

            “Two-year institutions serve a unique role in America’s higher education landscape, the report says. “Many do much more than prepare students to earn a postsecondary credential. For many students enrolled at two-year institutions, success may be transferring to a four-year institution or completing a few courses for retraining or career advancement. For the majority of these students, full-time enrollment may not be a viable option. And for some students, the need for remedial coursework may further delay progress toward a degree.

          “With broad missions and a wide range of stakeholders, two-year institutions have not been served well by current federal measures of student success. For many years policymakers and others have relied on federal graduation rate measures designed for traditional four-year institutions—measures that include only full-time, first-time degree- or certificate-seeking students—to make unfair judgments about the quality of two-year institutions. More importantly, these graduation rates may be misleading to consumers—students and families, researchers, and policymakers who are making critical decisions about investments in higher education based on incomplete data.”

        The report will be submitted to Education Secretary Arne Duncan for approval. In the meantime, the committee will develop a plan to implement its recommendations.

         The committee’s draft report can be found at AACC’s statement is at


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One Response to New Measures of College Success

  1. DrBackus says:

    I read with interest the article on building a new community college from the ground up in Manhattan, as part of CUNY. I think the New Community College is right on the mark by requiring a college information session, attending a summer bridge program, and visiting their advisor often. At our CC, we are piloting a program to vastly improve student advising, a program that mimics more of what is done at a 4 yr college. And I sincerely feel that advising is a critical piece of college success.

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