[Paleopsych] CHE: New Database of Graduation Rates Could Help Colleges Learn From Better-Performing Peers
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Wed Jan 19 15:11:08 UTC 2005
New Database of Graduation Rates Could Help Colleges Learn From
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.1.19
By ELIZABETH F. FARRELL
Graduation rates at colleges with similar students and resources vary
widely, and colleges could do a lot more to improve their numbers,
according to a report released on Tuesday by the Education Trust. The
report is the first to analyze data culled from the trust's new
database, College Results Online, also introduced on Tuesday.
College Results Online provides information on the six-year,
five-year, and four-year graduation rates through the year 2003 at
1,400 institutions, and the information will be updated annually.
The database was created, using publicly available statistics, to help
explain why so many students who enter college fail to earn their
diplomas. Across the United States, fewer than 40 percent of college
students graduate in four years and only about 60 percent graduate in
"We became suspicious of the conclusion that poor results were just
about poor students," Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust,
said in a conference call on Tuesday.
In response, the trust, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization
based in Washington, assembled what it describes as the first database
that allows users to compare graduation rates at their college with
the figures for similar institutions. The database determines which
colleges are most similar to a given institution by making comparisons
using 11 factors that are believed to influence completion rates,
including students' SAT and ACT scores, the percentage of students
receiving Pell Grants, and the proportion of nontraditional students,
who are older than typical students coming out of high school.
"Among relatively similar institutions, you'll find ones that not only
do a little bit better, but a lot better" than their peers, said Ms.
Haycock. "While factors like students' preparation do matter, what
institutions do matters too. ... We're trying to get that message
The University of Northern Iowa, for instance, had a six-year
graduation rate of 65.1 percent, compared with a median rate of 53.3
percent for similar institutions. Alcorn State University, a
historically black college in southwestern Mississippi, had a median
rate about 10 percentage points higher than its peers over the same
According to Ms. Haycock and others at the Education Trust, their
database will help colleges improve by learning from the leaders in
their peer group. Prospective students and high-school guidance
counselors can also use the data to figure out which colleges have the
highest success rates.
During the conference call, representatives of some of the most
successful universities shared tips for improving graduation rates,
such as intensive mentor programs for students and online planning
tools that help students figure out which courses they need to take to
graduate on time.
The report summarizing the trust's findings, "One Step From the Finish
Line: Higher College Graduation Rates Are Within Our Reach," is
available on the organization's Web site (requires Adobe
Reader, available free).
Background articles from The Chronicle:
* Advocacy Group Criticizes Colleges for Permitting Too Many
Students to Drop Out (5/27/2004)
* Graduation Rates Called a Poor Measure of Colleges (4/2/2004)
* A Common Yardstick? The Bush Administration Wants to
Standardize Accreditation; Educators Say It Is Too Complex for
* Republican Lawmakers Call for More Accountability in Higher
* Will Congress Require Colleges to Grade Themselves? (4/4/2003)
* Education Department Hears Appeals to Make Colleges More
Accountable for Student Performance (3/10/2003)
E-mail me if you have problems getting the referenced articles.
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