Toward Improved Measurements of Student Persistence and Completion

Matthew Soldner, Cameron Smither, Kelle Parsons, and Audrey Peek

Last year, nearly 70,000 students earned an undergraduate credential at a college or university that, according to the U.S. Department of Education, had a zero percent graduation rate. Another 2.6 million students were new enrollees in fall 2014, but regardless of whether they ever complete the certificate or degree they are hoping to earn, won’t be counted in the graduation rate their college reports to the Department. These learners share one common characteristic: They were not considered full-time, first-time, beginning students when arriving on campus.

In an environment characterized by rising out-of-pocket college prices and uncertain employment and wage prospects, having accurate information about where that investment is most likely to result in earning a certificate or degree is critical. This technical report uses data from 11 institutions to demonstrate the importance of including all students and all outcomes in measures of institutional performance.

Kelle Parsons
Senior Researcher