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The Student Success Index

by Tod Massa 29. March 2013 13:29

We are about to begin publicly linking the new Sub-Cohort Lifecycle and Student Success Index reports. This will likely be in the first week of April and I want to write about the possible implications of these reports and our intent in publishing them. Anytime we release anything that remotely resembles a performance measure, or can be used as one, there are legitimate concerns from our institutional colleagues.

We have long agreed the Graduation Survey (GRS) as collected by IPEDS and SCHEV and required in the original Student Right-to-Know Act is narrowly focused.  It does not reflect the graduation outcomes of part-time students or of transfer students. We have developed these new reports to address student success a bit more holistically. 

The Sub-Cohort Lifecycle reports replace the Cohort Lifecycle (GRS09) reports that are currently found on the site. The existing reports followed new First-time in College (FTIC) students, full- and part-time, over 10 years and mapped their enrollment, stop-out, drop-out, and completion. The reports consist of a table and chart depicting institution-specific outcomes and a matching table and chart for completion at any institution in Virginia. The new Sub-Cohort reports combine the two variations of degree completion and adds transfer enrollment to the display, as well as providing dozens of options for narrowing the student cohort. Additionally, we provide options for disaggregation by gender and majority/minority status.

The chart below provides a sample.

 

 

The Student Success Index takes advantage of many of the sub-cohort data elements and calculates a combined graduation and persistence rate across the four combinations of entering undergraduate students – First-Time In College (FTIC), New Transfer, Full- and Part-time. Similar to the GRS, we have created two different sets of standards for the Index: Normal time and Extended Time. 

For four-year institutions we have established Normal Time to be:

  • First-time in College, Full-time at Entry: 4 years to complete
  • First-time in College, Part-time at Entry: 6 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Full-time at Entry: 3 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Part-time at Entry: 5 years to complete

And Extended Time is:

  • First-time in College, Full-time at Entry: 6 years to complete
  • First-time in College, Part-time at Entry: 8 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Full-time at Entry: 5 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Part-time at Entry: 7 years to complete

For two-year institutions, Normal Time is:

  • First-time in College, Full-time at Entry: 2 years to complete
  • First-time in College, Part-time at Entry: 4 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Full-time at Entry: 1.5 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Part-time at Entry: 3.5 years to complete

And Extended Time is:

  • First-time in College, Full-time at Entry: 6 years to complete
  • First-time in College, Part-time at Entry: 8 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Full-time at Entry: 5 years to complete
  • New Transfer, Part-time at Entry: 7 years to complete

These standards are not based on anything particularly scientific. Normal Time starts with the assumption of four years for a baccalaureate degree and two years for an associate’s degree for full-time FTIC students. We add two years to that figure for part-time FTIC (we are always mindful that, in this context, full-time and part-time only refer to student load at entry to the institution).  For new transfer students, we assume that, on average, they enter the institution with a quarter of the required credits for a degree. In other words, we assume one year of transferrable credit for bachelor’s students, one semester’s worth for associate’s students. While we are open to reconsidering these definitions, they do have the attribute of being easily explained to, and understood by, policymakers. I also think they are easily perceived as being “reasonable.” 

Below are Student Success Index tables for the two-year public colleges for the sub-cohort of students who successfully completed (grade “D” or better) at least 24 credits in their first year at the institution. I think it tells an important story that is totally missing in the GRS rate.

 

An important difference in these reports from the GRS is that they do not reflect “Exclusions from the Cohort” as allowed by IPEDS to account for death, religious mission, and national service (including military). The reason for this is that historically, the total number of reported exclusions to the GRS cohorts is so small to hardly even classify as noise in the dataset. For example, in the cohorts reported for the 2009-10 collection, there 33 exclusions reported – out of 52,472 students across all institutions.  Since we do not have these exclusions for part-time or transfer students and we are ending our collection of GRS cohort data effective next year, it makes no sense to apply the exclusions in the coding of the reports. 

Please continue to review these reports and let us know what you think. At some point we will probably be ready to add additional sub-cohorts as I suspect we will receive questions about different combinations of those that are currently available and we will be interested in your suggestions.

 

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Categories: Reports, Student Success

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