Measuring Completion

After more than a year of study, a federal committee is urging the Education Department to change how it tracks and evaluates graduation rates and other measures of success for students at community colleges.

One of the recommendations, if endorsed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, would create a combined "graduation and transfer" rate that includes students who graduate from a two-year college as well as those who do not graduate but do go on to a four-year institution. That move would be a victory for community colleges, who have argued that counting only those students who earn degrees makes community colleges appear less successful than they really are.

The report, from the federal Committee on Measures of Student Success, was more than a year in the making. It addresses a variety of issues that can make measuring student completion rates at community colleges difficult, providing guidelines on collecting data on students who transfer, part-time students, students who need remedial classes, and other groups.

And while its recommendations are aimed only at two-year colleges for now, they could eventually affect four-year institutions as well, whether through an overhaul of the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System or an expansion of recommendations on learning outcomes and employment to apply to all colleges.

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