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Guide to the Retention and Graduation Reports

Retention and Graduation Rates

Graduation rates are too often used as a sole measure of institutional quality or effectiveness. They really are neither, but they are useful as part of a package of measures.  

Graduation rate would seem to be an easy baseline, but it was not until the mid-1990s during the rise of the “nontraditional” (age 25 and older) and increasing numbers of part-time students that the Education Department settled on the best way to define graduation rate after years of working with the higher education community. It five years, from 1991 and the passage of the Student Right-to-Know Act to 1996, for the first data to be collected by Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS. The IPEDS survey is mandatory, “for all institutions that participate or are applicants for participation in any Federal financial assistance program authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. The completion of the surveys is mandated by 20 USC 1094, Section 487(a)(17).” Because of limits to the IPEDS data structures, and because SCHEV has tremendous student-level data, SCHEV computes graduation rates at different levels of aggregations and over different periods of time beyond IPEDS.

Further the collection and reporting of racial/ethnic data are mandatory for all institutions that are applicants for Federal financial assistance, “s defined in the Department of Education (ED) regulations implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (34 CFR 100.13), or defined in any ED regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”

Within the Commonwealth “The Top Jobs Act” § 23.1-301.C3 Or “TJ21” code seeks, “To place Virginia among the most highly educated states and countries by conferring approximately 100,000 cumulative additional undergraduate degrees on Virginians between 2011 and 2025.” A large part of the initiatives success will be improving the graduation and retention rates in Virginia making these reports more valuable in measuring outcomes.

GRS reports are used to measure many outcomes in the state and across the nation but theoretically a student’s success and satisfaction are displayed through the student’s persistence to complete educational goals. While many believe graduation rates are an output measure it can just as easily be seen as something of an input based on findings similar to those in “Crossing the Finish Line”, which relied on data from North Carolina and Virginia.


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