To provide more complete information on student persistence and completion, the Education Department released an action plan today that takes steps to augment its current measures of student success in postsecondary education. Graduation rate reporting required for institutions of higher education will be broadened to include part-time and other students who have previously attended postsecondary education.
Current law excludes a substantial portion of the student population by only requiring that schools track graduation rates for full-time, first-time students. The additional reporting would supplement this existing requirement.
"Not all students take a linear path in their pursuit of higher education," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "Many students work full-time and are balancing family obligations while also attending school. These new outcome measures will accurately demonstrate how postsecondary schools are preparing students for success in different ways."
Entitled "Action Plan for Improving Measures of Postsecondary Success," the plan responds to the final report of the Committee on Measures of Student Success (CMSS). The committee was created under the Higher Education Opportunity Act to help two-year degree granting institutions comply with the law's disclosure requirements, and to develop alternate measures of student success that are comparable to completion and graduation rates. The 15-member committee, appointed by Secretary Duncan in June of 2010, held five public meetings in 13 months and made several recommendations that are incorporated in the action plan.
One key recommendation adopted by the Department is that broader measures of student success be implemented for four-year as well as two-year institutions.
"Better data across institutions is the basis for finding sound solutions to help students stay in school and complete their postsecondary studies," Duncan said. "It is critical to their success and our nation's economic prosperity."
About 7000 postsecondary institutions that participate in federal student aid programs report their graduation rates through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) of the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In addition to taking steps to expand the population of students to include part-time and others who are not attending postsecondary education for the first time, NCES is examining other measures to better document students' progression through higher education as well as other significant outcomes.
The action plan also includes activities and grant opportunities to help schools and states strengthen their capacity to collect and disseminate quality data. Among them are:
Developing easy-to-use templates that institutions can use to meet the HEOA disclosure requirements;
Making improved data collection and reporting a focus in its postsecondary education initiatives and grant programs;
Continuing to provide incentive funding to strengthen states' data infrastructures through Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grants, which will award round five recipients this spring;
Convening a summit this year to highlight promising practices in the collection and dissemination of data related to student success, such as student learning and employment.
Action Plan for Improving Measures of Postsecondary Success can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/ous/initiatives. The process and timeline for implementing the additional measures are under development and will be posted at that site in the next few weeks.
Information about the Committee on Measures of Student Success, including its members and final report, can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/acmss.html