[Paleopsych] CHE: New Database of Graduation Rates Could Help Colleges Learn From Better-Performing Peers

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New Database of Graduation Rates Could Help Colleges Learn From
Better-Performing Peers
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.1.19

    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, [56]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
    six years.

    "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
    six-year period.

    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 [57]Web site (requires [58]Adobe
    Reader, available free).

    Background articles from The Chronicle:
      * [59]Advocacy Group Criticizes Colleges for Permitting Too Many
        Students to Drop Out (5/27/2004)
      * [60]Graduation Rates Called a Poor Measure of Colleges (4/2/2004)
      * [61]A Common Yardstick? The Bush Administration Wants to
        Standardize Accreditation; Educators Say It Is Too Complex for
        That (8/15/2003)
      * [62]Republican Lawmakers Call for More Accountability in Higher
        Education (5/23/2003)
      * [63]Will Congress Require Colleges to Grade Themselves? (4/4/2003)
      * [64]Education Department Hears Appeals to Make Colleges More
        Accountable for Student Performance (3/10/2003)


   59. http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/05/2004052703n.htm
   60. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i30/30a00101.htm
   61. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v49/i49/49a02501.htm
   62. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v49/i37/37a02301.htm
   63. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v49/i30/30a02701.htm
   64. http://chronicle.com/daily/2003/03/2003031002n.htm

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