Changing the grad rate calculus

Community college success rates are expected to rise significantly when the Education Department completes its plan to include part-time and transfer students, notes Jennifer González in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Currently, students who transfer to a four-year institution before completing an associate degree are considered dropouts. But counting part-timers and transfers could be tricky. The department will have to decide how many credits make a part-time student or a “substantially prepared” transfer.

The department will also have to sort out how long those students will be tracked in order to determine whether they graduate. Will it be 150 percent of the conventional time to graduation (six years) or perhaps 200 percent of the time (eight years)?

Clifford Adelman, a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said the key “lies in the quality of institutional records and databases, and whether the registrars and institutional research can straighten out some of the sloppiness that has accumulated below the surface of the currently simplistic graduation-rate survey reporting.”

“Making sure everybody can do it the same way, and with consistent results,” he says, “will take a few years.”

State data systems track students who transfer to in-state public universities, but not students who go out of state or choose a private college. More than a quarter of all transfers cross state lines.