About the Graduation Rate Dashboard

With 50% of U.S. citizens having no more than a high school diploma, college degree completion has become a focus of national debate. The WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) is also emphasizing the need to measure student success including student retention, progress towards a degree, and graduation rates.

For WSCUC, student success includes not only strong retention and graduation rates, but also high-quality learning. It means that students are prepared for success in their personal, civic, and professional lives, and that they embody the values and behaviors that make their institution distinctive. Institutions’ definitions of success will differ, given their unique missions, traditions, programs, and the characteristics of the student they serve.

Traditionally, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) has been the primary source of data on graduation rates for institutions. However, it is restricted to first-time, full-time cohorts and fails to account for the success of a growing number of students in its measures of graduation rates.

The Graduation Rate Dashboard was developed by WSCUC as a more inclusive method to identify the enrollment, retention and graduation patterns of all undergraduate students. The primary benefit of this methodology is that it accounts for all graduates regardless of how they matriculate (first-time or transfer, lower or upper division) or enroll (part-time, full-time, swirling), or what programs they pursue.

WSCUC encourages the use of multiple measures to understand and improve graduation rates as a component of student success.

Frequently Asked Questions - Graduation Rate Dashboard

What is the Undergraduate Student Success and Graduation Rate Dashboard (GRD)?

 

Designed by Dr. John Etchemendy, Stanford University Provost and a member of the WSCUC Commission, the Graduation Rate Dashboard (GRD) uses six data points from the institution to automatically calculate two completion measures, the Unit Redemption Rate and the Absolute Graduation Rate (AGR).

The Unit Redemption Rate (URR) is the proportion of units granted by an institution that are eventually ‘redeemed’ for a degree from that institution. The URR is a completion measure that can be applied to institutions serving any population of students (full-time or part-time; first-time, transfer or swirling), as well as institutions offering different degree programs or mixes of degree programs.

The Absolute Graduation Rate is the proportion of students entering an institution that eventually graduate from that institution. Unlike IPEDS which only tracks cohort based, first-time, full-time students, the Absolute Graduation Rate is inclusive of all students at the institution. Like the URR it includes all students regardless of their enrollment pattern- first-time or transfer, full-time or part-time students but also accounts for students who have a gap in their enrollment before completion.

Both the URR and AGR measures are comparable across all institutions.

Why was the Undergraduate Student Success and Graduation Rate Dashboard developed?

 

Given that just over 50% of U.S. citizens have no more than a high school diploma, college degree completion has become the focus of national debate and a point of primary emphasis for WSCUC. As a result, there has been increasing attention on measures of student success including student retention, progress towards a degree, and graduation rates. Traditionally, IPEDS has been the primary source of data on degree attainment for institutions.

The IPEDS methodology for calculating graduation rates fails to account for the success of an increasing number of students so the dashboard was developed as a more inclusive method to identify the enrollment, retention and graduation patterns of today's students.

  • IPEDS graduation rates are based on first-time, full-time students and do not capture the significant number of WSCUC institutions have students that transfer in with some or a great deal of prior higher education experience.

The Graduation Rate Dashboard reflects the success of all students including transfer students. This makes the dashboard a more reliable indicator for institutions with signficant tranfer populations.

  • IPEDS methodology uses a prescribed time period to frame the results, typically six years for baccalaureate degree programs. Yet a significant number of institutions in the WSCUC region serve "non-traditional" or "post-traditional" students, e.g. working adults or students with families who need to attend part-time, or engage in "swirling" enrollment patterns.

The intention is to provide evaluator teams and the Commission with fair and reliable data to assess institutional effectiveness with student success.

The Graduation Rate Dashboard captures all graduating students even those that attend part-time or take more than six years to complete their programs.

s this just for undergraduate programs or will graduate programs also be included?

The GRD is focused on undergraduate student completion at this time.

What years will we report in the Annual Report?

 

All accredited, candidate and eligible institutions are required to report this information as part of the WSCUC Annual Report in May of each year.

The 2016 Annual Report will request the following eight academic years; 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15.

What data points does the institution need to provide?

Annual reporting elements include six data points that  allow the calculation of two completion measures in the Graduation Rate Dashboard (GRD). WSCUC will collect the following data from the institution annually:

1) The unduplicated headcount of all students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs during the academic year.

2) The total institutional units completed during the academic year by students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs.

3) The unduplicated headcount of students who graduated with an undergraduate degree or credential during the academic year.

4) The total, cumulative institutional units completed by those considered "graduated"—i.e., those counted in item (3)—during their time enrolled in the degree program at your institution.

5) Number of dropouts in the academic year (all enrolled in year 1 but not in year 2 and who did not graduate)

6) Units taken by dropouts in the academic year (all institutional units completed by dropouts)

 

For a more detailed explanation of the data elements please refer to:

Graduation Rate Dashboard Instructions and Data Definitions (.docx) 

Graduation Rate Dashboard Template (.xlsx)

Do these measures include or reflect time-to-degree?

 

No, neither measure is coupled with an expected time of completion. But the AGR combined with the institution's average time-to-degree do provide the information necessary to estimate a student's chances of earning a degree and the time he or she would likely take to do so.

How will WSCUC evaluate the Graduation Rate Dashboard?

 

The Commission, WSCUC staff and peer evaluators currently review IPEDS cohort default rates, publicly posted information on student achievement (CFR 1.2) and any other measures provided by the institution as part of accreditation, reaffirmation and mid-cycle reviews. 

It is not the intention of the Commission that any accreditation decisions will be made based soley on the GRD measures. The Commission is committed to the use of multiple measures of retention and graduation to gauge institutional effectiveness and student success. 

The Commission will continue to engage the region in research on the applicability of the GRD methodology. In support of this research, the Graduation Rate Dashboard measures and the institutions own analysis will be included in accreditation, reaffirmation and mid-cycle reviews starting in spring of 2016. 

For insights about data interpretations, see the last four questions in the Frequently Asked Questions About Methodology: Unit Redemption Rate, Absolute Graduation Rate, and Graduation Rate Dashboard of the document An Explanation of the Unit Redemption Rate and Absolute Graduation Rate, particularly Appendix B regarding how data might vary from year to year given fluctuations in enrollment and/or across institutions in light of differing missions and values.

Can we use and report a different student success measure?

 

WSCUC encourages institutions to use multiple measures to understand and improve student completion rates. However all institutions are required to annually provide the GRD data. Also starting in spring 2014 institutions are required to provide a URL to retention and graduation data publicly posted and available on the institution's website.

Do you think that the Dashboard will later be expanded to include graduate students? More specifically, will WSCUC ever require graduation rates by demographics characteristics?

 

There are no plans at this time to included graduate units or graduate students in the dashboard. Also, the tool does not require disaggregation of students. 

As part of our ongoing research, we encourage interested institution to experiment with the GRD methodology including an exploration of its applicability in graduate education or other more focused populations (race, ethnicity, gender). We would appreciate feedback on your institutions experience with those applications.

What happened to the Retention and Graduation Review, involving data templates and a stand-alone review committee, that I thought all institutions were going to go through?

 

One consequence of the work of the Task Force on Student Success was the development and pilot implementation of the "Retention and Graduation Review" in fall 2012 and spring 2013 and the provision of templates for institutional use in reporting on all the students in an institution. This review process used a stand-alone Retention and Graduation Committee (RGC) to evaluate the student retention and graduation rates of cohorts of students within prescribed periods of time. Sixteen institutions within the WSCUC region participated in the pilot.

While these reviews included all of an institution's students, pilot institutions found that data production was time-consuming and burdensome. RGC members found that, without appropriate parameters, it was difficult to make fair judgments about the data collected. And the WSCUC Commission concluded that limiting results to prescribed time periods failed to include a significant number of student completions. The Commission does not plan to continue with this process with the rest of the region.

Also see: Retention & Graduation Committee

The Commission references multiple measures of student success and strongly encourages institutions to do the same.

Student success includes not only strong retention and degree completion rates, but also high-quality learning. It means that students are prepared for success in their personal, civic, and professional lives, and that they embody the values and behaviors that make their institution distinctive. Institutions’ definitions of success will differ, given their unique missions, traditions, programs, and the characteristics of the students served.

Annual reporting elements include the six data points that allow the calculation of the two completion measures in the Graduation Rate Dashboard (GRD). Additionally, 150% graduation rates for First-time Full time freshman by race, ethnicity and gender are collected for institutions that do not already report to IPEDS. 3-year cohort default rates are also collected annually.

Retention and graduation data for both undergraduate and graduate students, as applicable, should be readily and easily accessible, and prominently and centrally displayed on the institution’s web page (institution must provide URL as part of the annual report).  Quantitative data typically represents “measures of retention and graduation.”

Other measures of student success should also be referenced by the institution as part of their ongoing improvement efforts and included in the institutional report. See Component 5:Student Success: Student Learning, Retention, and Graduation.