Since its start, Complete College America (CCA) has worked with alliance members and partners to illustrate the factors that bolster student success and the challenges that stand in the way. For instance, we’ve all worked to capture changes to retention rates, credit accumulation, and time-to-degree across states and colleges. These metrics prove whether reforms actually improve teaching, learning and student persistence—leading indicators of more commonly reported top-line metrics, such as graduation rates. To understand what moves these leading indicators, we need timely statistical reporting—reports that tell us how well changes to the classroom, and to the advising office, enhance student Purpose, Momentum, Structure, and Support—the four pillars at the heart of student success.
Unfortunately, identifying what works—and what doesn’t—is really, really hard. For example, tracking the success of co-requisite-based remediation—defining the common metrics, and following the key cohorts—is a difficult task and one in which a lonely institutional researcher may labor in the dark, generating compelling, comprehensive data well after the fact. Complicating matters, success rates vary by key equity groups—by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, first-generation status, and age group, for example. Closing these gaps requires, first, knowing them.
With the explicit aim of dramatically reducing reporting burdens, Complete College America and others partnered with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) to increase participation in the Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP). Although there are no silver bullets to solve data hardships, the PDP helps its users solve ubiquitous challenges.
Through a series of dashboards and provision of the file that underlies the graphs they contain, you can see results from student success reforms, across multiple student types; moreover, because NSC is the provider, PDP includes transfer activity and subsequent academic performance at other institutions. Metrics encompassed include, but are not limited to, term-to-term retention—both within and across colleges—credit accumulation, credit-completion ratio, pass rates for gatekeeper courses, and time to degree. Taken together, the PDP allows states and institutions to measure the success of various reforms, such as those that innovate on traditional developmental education or encourage students to earn more credits per year.
The result is a comprehensive data set that keeps up with the pace of your work. This information captured in PDP has never been more critical, given the many ways COVID-19 has increased the rate of change, boosted the likelihood of transfers, and decreased school budgets. Tight budgets, in turn, make it more critical to know which reforms require more resources to continue to increase on-time graduation rates; the PDP reveals this data through compelling graphs, filterable by student types and judiciously presented to answer the most common questions. By sharing your PDP data with CCA and other entities, you’ll not only remove hours of time reporting out, you’ll receive data that benchmarks your performance to peers who also participate in PDP, making it easier to attain outside assistance in support of your efforts.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Institutional data fluency and maturity predicts whether you can sustain changes from startup initiatives geared towards improving student success rates. It predicts whether you can converse on student performance to improve how many more students you graduate. It also helps you advocate for your own school, state, or system when you meet with state legislative and gubernatorial offices—a crucial ability at a time of shrinking budgets. Whether you’re a leader at a college, university, state or accrediting body, the PDP will assemble, roll-up, drill-down and benchmark your data to meet your needs.