Data helps local schools

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Report by research center shows college completion on the rise

College completion rates may be higher than the state and federal government report them, according to new data released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

State and federal data tracks first-time, full-time students for graduation rates over six years. If a student is part-time or transfers in from another institution, they are overlooked in rates by the state and federal government.

While not broken down by state, the new data tracks students for six years and all different types of institutions, public and private, two-year and four-year, and for-profit and nonprofit. The institutions have to opt in to submit the data, so some schools may be left out of the data set.

For four-year public schools like Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas, the six-year outcome shows 50.6 percent of students completed their degree at the same institution they started in. Another 9.3 percent completed it at a different four-year school, and 15 percent are still enrolled.

“For an institution like TWU that is a little less traditional, where we get a lot of students from different sources, it might give us a better idea of what our true graduation rate actually is,” said Richard Nicholas, vice president for student life at TWU. “For TWU, it’s valuable information in the sense that it’s more comprehensive.”

The report also provides an overall statistic not previously available — a singular national completion rate for all degrees and certificates started in six years, 56.1 percent. This is the second time the National Student Clearinghouse has released the report.

According to the clearinghouse, TWU has provided enrollment data since 2002, and UNT since 2008.

For UNT, the decision to opt in was easy because the more information they can have about their students, the better, said Jason Simon, associate vice provost of institutional research and effectiveness.

“We already have a commitment to the work they are trying to do because we recognize the traditional paradigms to how students attend institutions of higher education is no longer what we historically might think,” Simon said. “For us, it creates a fuller, richer picture of the patterns of student success.”

By looking at national trends with the detailed data, individual institutions can use the information to see trends and help them understand their own graduation data, Nicholas said.

“We use a great deal of data for our own decision-making, and some of what they’re providing in the way of national data that we could access helps us understand some of what we see in graduation rates,” he said. “It can also give us some valuable comparison information.”

When UNT receives its first institutional report next year, Simon says the data will be utilized within the university to help make planning decisions.

“We’re really looking to learn as much as we can about the patterns of how our students succeed, or grapple with obtaining their goals,” he said.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.

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