Graduation + transfer = new success rate

Graduation or transfer should be counted as success for community college students, recommends the Committee on Measures of Student Success (CMSS). The federal panel voted to approve its 26-page report (pdf) to the U.S. Education Department this week.

The committee recommended including part-time, degree-seeking students in the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which currently counts only full-time students, and collecting data on federal student aid recipients and remedial students.

The combined graduation-and-transfer rate will increase “completion” from the current 22 percent to 40 percent, predicted the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in a statement.

Committtee member Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California, said the panel’s recommendations would not be overbudensome and are consistent with the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA), a system of voluntary measures developed by AACC to help college determine how well they are serving students and to help them improve.

Both the CMSS and VFA call for including part-time students in graduation measures and “extending the time that students are given to count as completers.”

However, AACC did not agree with the committee’s recommendations on tracking students in developmental education and student transfers. Defining developmental education students would be difficult, as more colleges are using new strategies to address developmental education, such as including remedial students in regular college-credit courses, according to two-year college advocates.

AACC also opposes tracking community college transfers only if they enroll in  four-year institutions. “Lateral transfer to a two-year college is frequently a path to achieving education success,” the association said.