a GAO GAO COLLEGE COMPLETION Additional Efforts Could Help Education with Its Completion Goals Report to Congressional Requesters

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1 GAO United Sttes Generl Accounting Office Report to Congressionl Requesters My 2003 COLLEGE COMPLETION Additionl Efforts Could Help Eduction with Its Completion Gols GAO

2 My 2003 COLLEGE COMPLETION Highlights of GAO , report to the Rnking Minority Members, Committee on Helth, Eduction, Lbor, nd Pensions, United Sttes Sente, nd Committee on Eduction nd the Workforce, House of Representtives Additionl Efforts Could Help Eduction With Its Completion Gols Becuse of concerns tht not enough students who strt college re completing bchelor s degree, we exmined (1) the extent to which students who enroll in 4- yer college complete bchelor s degree nd identify the fctors tht ffect completion; (2) wht sttes nd 4-yer colleges nd universities re doing to foster bchelor s degree completion; nd (3) wht the Deprtment of Eduction (Eduction) is doing to foster degree completion. More thn hlf of ll students who enrolled in 4-yer college completed bchelor s degree within 6 yers. Students were less likely to complete if neither prent hd completed degree, they were blck, they worked 20 or more hours per week, or they trnsferred to nother college. Students hd greter likelihood of completing if they were continuously enrolled, ttended full-time, or hd more rigorous high school curriculum. After controlling for other fctors, GAO found tht disdvntged students were no less likely to complete degree thn other students. However, students from disdvntged bckgrounds re less likely to ttend college in the first plce. Sttus of Students 6 Yers fter Beginning in t 4-Yer Institution As Eduction moves forwrd with its pln to hold colleges nd universities ccountble for their performnce in grduting their students, GAO recommends tht the Secretry of Eduction consider multiple mesures tht would help ccount for the other gols of higher eduction nd differences mong colleges nd tke steps to identify nd disseminte informtion bout promising prctices in the res of retention nd grdution. Eduction greed with GAO s recommendtions, but expressed concerns with some spects of the report. Among other things, Eduction ws concerned with the scope of GAO s review nd sid tht, for exmple, GAO should hve included informtion on grdution rte trends; however, its suggested dt would not be comprble for these purposes. To view the full report, including the scope nd methodology, click on the link bove. For more informtion, contct Corneli M. Ashby t (202) or Sttes re beginning to hold colleges ccountble for retining nd grduting their students, nd Eduction hs been discussing this with the higher eduction community. Mny sttes re publishing retention nd grdution rtes for their colleges, nd some hve tied performnce in these res to funding. According to Eduction, providing informtion on colleges retention nd grdution performnce cn help prospective students mke informed decisions. However, the mesure used by Eduction my not fully reflect n institution s performnce becuse institutionl gols nd missions re not cptured in the mesure. In its strtegic pln, Eduction hs identified gols to reduce gps in college completion nd increse overll completion. It lso hs some evlution nd dissemintion efforts relted to retention nd completion, however, these efforts do not systemticlly identify nd disseminte promising retention nd grdution prctices to help sttes nd institutions.

3 Contents Letter 1 Results in Brief 3 Bckground 5 Over Hlf of Students Enrolled in 4-Yer College or University Completed Their Degree within 6 Yers, but Certin Fctors Affect the Likelihood of Doing So 10 Sttes nd 4-Yer Institutions Hd Vrious Methods to Foster Bchelor s Degree Completion 14 Eduction Hs Progrms to Foster College Completion, but No Systemtic Efforts to Identify nd Disseminte Informtion on Promising Prctices 26 Conclusions 31 Recommendtions 32 Agency Comments 32 Appendix I Objectives, Scope, nd Methodology 35 Appendix II Bchelor s Degree Completion Sttus of Beginning Postsecondry Students 6 Yers fter Enrolling 39 Appendix III Results of Regression Models for Bchelor s Degree Completion within 6 Yers of Beginning College 42 Appendix IV Comments from the Deprtment of Eduction 45 Appendix V GAO Contcts nd Stff Acknowledgments 48 Contcts 48 Acknowledgments 48 Pge i

4 Tble Tble 1: Overview of Eduction Progrms Tht Hve College Completion s Primry Gol 28 Figures Figure 1: Eductionl Attinment of Students Who Were in the Eighth Grde in 1988, 12 Yers Lter, by Income, Rce/Ethnicity 5 Figure 2: Sttus of Students 6 Yers fter Beginning in t 4-Yer Institution 9 Figure 3: Bchelor s Degree Completion Sttus for Students Enrolled t 4-yer Institutions, 6 Yers fter Beginning College 11 Figure 4: Bchelor s Degree Completion by Number of Hours Worked Per Week 13 Figure 5: Bchelor s Degree Completion by Type of First Institution Attended nd Trnsfer Sttus 14 Abbrevitions BPS GEAR UP GRS NPSAS:96 Beginning Postsecondry Students Gining Erly Awreness nd Rediness for Undergrdute Progrms Grdution Rte Survey Ntionl Postsecondry Student Aid Study This is work of the U.S. Government nd is not subject to copyright protection in the United Sttes. It my be reproduced nd distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. It my contin copyrighted grphics, imges or other mterils. Permission from the copyright holder my be necessry should you wish to reproduce copyrighted mterils seprtely from GAO s product. Pge ii

5 United Sttes Generl Accounting Office Wshington, DC My 23, 2003 The Honorble Edwrd M. Kennedy Rnking Minority Member Committee on Helth, Eduction, Lbor, nd Pensions United Sttes Sente The Honorble George Miller Rnking Minority Member Committee on Eduction nd the Workforce House of Representtives A college degree is key ingredient for success in the job mrket. Those with postsecondry degrees on verge ern more thn those without such degrees nd bring importnt skills to the workplce. Completing college cn serve s mens for disdvntged students 1 to improve their economic nd socil circumstnces. Beyond the societl benefits, the federl government hs dditionl interests in encourging college completion. Reserch indictes tht those who sty in college nd dvnce towrd degree re less likely to defult on student lon the federl government provided student borrowers with $35 billion in new lons in fiscl yer In ddition to the investment the federl government mkes in higher eduction, sttes, prents, nd students mke substntil investments. To help protect these investments, policymkers hve begun to focus on ccountbility of colleges nd universities, especilly regrding college completion rtes. The Deprtment of Eduction (Eduction) hs begun to discuss this issue with the higher eduction community. 1 Disdvntged students re identified by the socioeconomic diversity index, which is bsed on three indictors: (1) fmily income s percentge of 1994 federl poverty level, (2) highest eduction by either prent, nd (3) proportion of students in high school eligible for free/reduced price lunch. 2 These lons were provided through two mjor federl student lon progrms, the Federl Direct Lon Progrm nd the Federl Fmily Eduction Lon Progrm. Under the Direct Lon Progrm, students or their prents borrow money directly from the federl government through the schools the students ttend. Under the Fmily Eduction Lon Progrm, money is borrowed from privte lenders such s bnks, nd the federl government gurntees repyment if the borrowers defult. Pge 1

6 Becuse of concerns tht not enough students who strt college re completing bchelor s degree, you sked us to determine (1) the extent to which students including those from lower socioeconomic bckgrounds who enroll in 4-yer college or university complete bchelor s degree nd the fctors tht ffect bchelor s degree completion; (2) wht sttes nd 4-yer colleges nd universities re doing to foster bchelor s degree completion nd wht is known bout the effectiveness of these efforts; nd (3) wht Eduction is doing to foster bchelor s degree completion. To determine the extent to which students complete bchelor s degrees nd the fctors tht ffect completion, we conducted logistic regression using dt from Eduction s Beginning Postsecondry Students study, which trcked over 6-yer period the cdemic progress nd degree completion of individul students beginning with the time they first enrolled in postsecondry study in We nlyzed dt for those students who in were enrolled in 4-yer institution or were enrolled t some other type of institution, but trnsferred to 4-yer institution t some point during the 6-yer period. As result, our nlysis excludes other types of students, such s community college students who did not trnsfer to 4-yer institution. To identify wht sttes nd 4-yer colleges nd universities re doing to foster bchelor s degree completion, we conducted survey of stte higher eduction executive officer gencies representing ll 50 sttes, the District of Columbi, nd Puerto Rico. 3 We received responses representing 48 of the 52 jurisdictions (92 percent). We lso interviewed stte officils nd dministrtors t 11 public colleges nd universities in Florid, Mrylnd, Oregon, Texs, nd Virgini. We selected these sttes nd institutions bsed on geogrphic dispersion nd the vriety of efforts reported to us by experts nd in the survey. To identify wht Eduction is doing to foster bchelor s degree completion, we tlked with Eduction officils nd reviewed progrm nd plnning documents. A more detiled explntion of our methodology is included in ppendix I. We conducted our work between April 2002 nd My 2003 in ccordnce with generlly ccepted government uditing stndrds. 3 We used the membership list of the Stte Higher Eduction Executive Officers, nonprofit, ntionl ssocition tht represents sttewide postsecondry eduction interests. Pge 2

7 Results in Brief More thn hlf of ll students who enroll in 4-yer college or university complete bchelor s degree within 6 yers of beginning postsecondry eduction. On the bsis of our nlysis, select bckground chrcteristics, work nd college ttendnce ptterns, s well s cdemic preprtion nd performnce re correlted with bchelor s degree completion. Specific fctors ssocited with lower likelihood of completing bchelor s degree include coming from fmily in which neither prent hd erned bchelor s degree, being blck, working 20 or more hours per week, or trnsferring to nother institution. Students were more likely to complete their degree work if they were continuously enrolled during the 6-yer period or ttended full-time. The likelihood of student grduting within 6 yers lso incresed s rigor of their high school curriculum, high school grde point verge, nd first-yer college grde point verge incresed. After controlling for other fctors, we found tht disdvntged students were no less likely to complete bchelor s degree thn other students. Notwithstnding this fct, students from disdvntged bckgrounds re less likely to ttend college in the first plce. Sttes nd 4-yer colleges nd universities re employing vrious methods to foster bchelor s degree completion, but informtion on the effectiveness of these efforts is limited. Over two-thirds of the sttes responding to our survey reported hving t lest one effort in plce to foster bchelor s degree completion. Most of these efforts fell into three ctegories: (1) incresing the number of students entering postsecondry eduction; (2) helping colleges improve their performnce in retining nd grduting students; nd (3) helping individul students remin in college nd encourging timely completion for these students. For exmple, in n ttempt to increse the number of students entering college, Kentucky hs ligned high school grdution stndrds with college dmissions stndrds by creting single high school curriculum for ll students. Also, in n effort to help students remin in college, seven sttes reported efforts to fcilitte trnsfer from one college to nother. Officils in Florid told us tht estblishing policies tht help students trnsfer from community colleges to 4-yer institutions ws importnt becuse the community college system is considered the point of entry for most college students in the stte. Sttes reported tht lmost hlf of these efforts hve been evluted, but provided few specific evlution results. As wy to foster bchelor s degree completion, 4-yer colleges nd universities we visited were engged in ctivities designed to improve the lerning experience for students by creting smller lerning communities tht foster greter connections to the institution, long with strengthening support of students to promote cdemic success. For exmple, some colleges hve creted residentil lerning opportunities for students. Pge 3

8 These living-lerning communities re operted through the residence hlls where students live together nd tke clss together. In some cses, officils ttributed increses in retention to their efforts. Eduction fosters bchelor s degree completion by mking finncil id vilble to students nd providing support services for students who re low-income, come from fmilies in which neither prent hs bchelor s degree, or re disbled. Eduction dministers the federl student id progrms, primrily through grnts nd lons to help students finnce college. In September 2002, we reported tht little informtion is vilble on the reltive effectiveness of federl grnts nd lons on completion. Eduction lso dministers progrms tht provide support services, such s tutoring, t the pre-college nd college levels to help ensure successful outcomes for students who re low-income, come from fmilies in which neither prent hs erned bchelor s degree, or re disbled. Informtion on the effectiveness of these progrms in fostering college completion is still being collected. Through its strtegic pln, Eduction hs identified priorities for reducing gps in college completion mong certin student popultions nd incresing completion overll. Its strtegic pln lso identifies strengthening the ccountbility of postsecondry institutions to ensure colleges re grduting their students in timely mnner s priority. According to Eduction, providing prospective students with informtion on grdution nd retention rtes to help them mke informed choices bout where to ttend college is one wy to hold institutions ccountble for their performnce. Eduction hs some evlution nd dissemintion efforts relted to retention nd completion; however, it does not hve systemtic wy to identify nd shre promising prctices in these res with sttes nd colleges tht re looking for strtegies to help them better retin their students. In this report, we mke recommendtions to the Secretry of Eduction to (1) consider multiple mesures in holding institutions ccountble for their performnce in grduting their students nd (2) identify nd disseminte promising prctices in the res of retention nd grdution. In written comments on drft of this report, Eduction greed with our recommendtions, but expressed concerns with some spects of the report. Among other things, Eduction hd concerns with the scope of our review nd commented tht, for exmple, we should hve provided informtion on trends in grdution rtes; however, the studies it suggested we use re not comprble nd should not be used for these purposes. Eduction lso provided technicl comments, which we incorported where pproprite. Pge 4

9 Bckground Mny fctors ffect why some students grdute from college nd our review would not be complete without first considering the extent to which students with different chrcteristics dvnce to higher levels of eduction. Mny students will complete their eduction without ever hving enrolled in college. Figure 1 shows some of the differences in eductionl prticiption nd ttinment for group of students who were followed over 12-yer period strting in the eighth grde. Figure 1: Eductionl Attinment of Students Who Were in the Eighth Grde in 1988, 12 Yers Lter, by Income, Rce/Ethnicity Note: GAO nlysis of Eduction s Ntionl Eductionl Longitudinl Study of Pge 5

10 We reported in Februry 2002 tht low-income, blck, nd Hispnic students complete high school t lower rtes thn other students. 4 Students from these groups who grdute from high school lso enroll in college t lower rtes thn their peers, even though the overll rte t which students enter college directly from high school hs been incresing. According to reserch, fctors such s fmily income nd prents eductionl ttinment influence students expecttions bout college. Low-income students nd students from fmilies in which neither prent hs erned bchelor s degree were less likely to expect to finish college nd ultimtely enrolled t lower rtes thn other students. Acdemic preprtion ws lso cited s fctor ffecting postsecondry enrollment. Low-income, blck, nd Hispnic high school grdutes were less likely to be well prepred cdemiclly to ttend 4-yer college. Even mong those who were qulified for college, however, low-income nd Hispnic students were less likely to tke college entrnce exmintions nd pply for dmission, two necessry steps for enrolling in 4-yer institution. There re vriety of postsecondry options for students fter high school. Over 15 million students were enrolled in some type of higher eduction in the fll of Most students were enrolled in degreegrnting 2-yer or 4-yer institutions. 5 After considering their cdemic qulifictions, students cn choose to pply to institutions with vrying levels of selectivity. Community colleges, for exmple, provide postsecondry opportunities for students who might not hve the qulifictions to strt t most 4-yer institutions. Additionlly, students my wish to choose n institution bsed on its mission. For exmple, Minority Serving Institutions re recognized by sttute, in prt, for their mission to educte minority students. The institutions students ttend hve differing grdution rtes. Institutionl grdution rtes my vry bsed upon such fctors s the mission, selectivity, nd type of institution. For exmple, institutions tht focus on providing postsecondry opportunities to disdvntged 4 U.S. Generl Accounting Office, School Dropouts: Eduction Could Ply Stronger Role in Identifying nd Disseminting Promising Prevention Strtegies, GAO (Wshington, D.C.: Feb. 1, 2002). 5 About 2 percent of students were enrolled t nondegree-grnting, Title IV-eligible, postsecondry institutions. These included voctionl nd technicl progrms designed to prepre students for specific creers. Pge 6

11 students ddressing Eduction s gol of incresing prticiption in higher eduction my hve lower grdution rtes thn institutions tht do not serve mny disdvntged students. To ensure tht students nd their prents hve some informtion bout how colleges re performing with respect to grduting their students, Congress pssed the Cmpus Security nd Student Right-to-Know Act. 6 This ct, s mended, requires tht institutions prticipting in ny student finncil ssistnce progrm under Title IV of the Higher Eduction Act of 1965 disclose to current nd prospective students informtion bout the grdution rtes of first-time, full-time undergrdute students. The lw requires tht institutions report the percentge of students who grdute or complete within 150 percent of the norml progrm completion time. This would men tht 4-yer institutions would trck groups of entering students over 6-yer period, nd 2-yer institutions would trck groups of entering students over 3-yer period. While informtion collected s prt of this ct is the principl federl mesure vilble to hold institutions ccountble for their performnce in grduting their students, there re currently no federl snctions or incentives ssocited with college grdution rtes. As prt of discussions with the higher eduction community, Eduction hs held pnel discussions with student-id experts, stte officils, nd business leders, mong other prticipnts, bout improving ccountbility. Four-yer institutions clculte their grdution rte by determining the proportion of first-time, full-time students who enroll in given yer nd hve grduted from the sme institution within 6-yer period. 7 Students who hve not grduted from the institution where they first enrolled by the end of the 6-yer period re clssified s not hving finished degree, even if they trnsferred nd completed degree t nother institution. Dt from Eduction s Beginning Postsecondry Students (BPS) study longitudinl study 8 which followed the retention nd degree completion of students from the time they enrolled in ny postsecondry 6 Pub. L. No , Nov. 8, For the purpose of clculting grdution rte, n institution my exclude from the originl cohort students who hve left school to serve in the militry; to serve on officil church missions; to serve with foreign id service of the federl government, such s the Pece Corps; re totlly nd permnently disbled; or re decesed. 8 The first BPS study trcked the eductionl ttinment of group of students who first enrolled in postsecondry eduction in The next scheduled BPS study will follow students who first enroll in postsecondry eduction in the school yer. Pge 7

12 institution over 6-yer period illustrtes how grdution rtes re understted due to this tretment of trnsfer students. Figure 2 shows the completion sttus of the nerly 1.4 million students who strted their postsecondry eduction t 4-yer institution in (no trnsfers into 4-yer institutions from 2-yer institutions or certificte progrms were included). Over one-qurter of the students who strted t 4-yer institution trnsferred from their first institution to nother institution. If only those who completed bchelor s degree t the first institution of ttendnce re considered, the grdution rte is 51 percent. However, n dditionl 8 percent trnsferred to nother institution nd completed bchelor s degree within the 6-yer period. Pge 8

13 Figure 2: Sttus of Students 6 Yers fter Beginning in t 4-Yer Institution Note: GAO nlysis of BPS dt. Pge 9

14 Over Hlf of Students Enrolled in 4-Yer College or University Completed Their Degree within 6 Yers, but Certin Fctors Affect the Likelihood of Doing So Over hlf of students who enrolled in 4-yer college or university completed bchelor s degree within 6 yers of beginning postsecondry eduction, ccording to our nlysis of BPS dt. However, bckground chrcteristics such s being blck or first-genertion college student 9 were ssocited with lower rtes of completion. Wheres students were more likely to complete bchelor s degree within 6 yers if, mong other things, they hd more rigorous curriculum in high school, ttended college full-time, were continuously enrolled, worked less thn 20 hours per week, or did not trnsfer. After controlling for other fctors, we found tht disdvntged students were no less likely to complete bchelor s degree thn other students. Notwithstnding this fct, s we hve noted, students from disdvntged bckgrounds re less likely to ttend college in the first plce. For vrious resons, not ll students who enroll in college will ultimtely ttin degree. Bsed on Eduction s BPS study, 52 percent of the estimted 1.8 million students who enrolled in 4-yer institution t some point during the subsequent 6-yer period (including pproximtely 450,000 students who trnsferred from less thn 4-yer institution 10 ) completed their bchelor s degree. 11 Of the 48 percent of students who hd not ttined bchelor s degree, nerly 14 percent were still enrolled in 4-yer institution t the end of the 6-yer period, s shown in figure 3. See ppendix II for completion rtes by chrcteristics nd ppendix III for descriptions of the vribles used in our nlysis nd discussion of their levels of significnce. 9 First-genertion college students come from fmilies in which neither prent hs erned bchelor s degree. 10 These institutions include 2-yer schools nd certificte progrms t less thn 2-yer schools. 11 Students in our popultion re counted s bchelor s degree completers if they hd ttined their degree by the end of the 6-yer study. Our nlysis included students enrolled in public or privte, not for profit, 4-yer institutions. Pge 10

15 Figure 3: Bchelor s Degree Completion Sttus for Students Enrolled t 4-yer Institutions, 6 Yers fter Beginning College 14% Did not complete bchelor's degree; still enrolled in 4-yer institution 52% 34% Did not complete bchelor's degree; not enrolled in 4-yer institution Source: Deprtment of Eduction. Note: GAO nlysis of Eduction s BPS dt. Completed bchelor's degree Of the bckground chrcteristics we nlyzed, being blck or firstgenertion college student ws ssocited with lower completion rtes. Students with either of these chrcteristics were bout third less likely to complete college s students without these chrcteristics. The completion rte for blck students ws 38 percent compred with 55 percent for both white nd Asin students. As for students who hd t lest one prent with bchelor s degree, their rte of completion ws 59 percent compred with 43 percent for students who were firstgenertion college students. Being first-genertion student ffected completion regrdless of rce. For exmple, first-genertion white students were no more likely to complete college thn first-genertion blck students. Students who hd more rigorous high school curriculum nd chieved better grdes in high school nd during the first yer of college were more likely to complete college. 12 About 80 percent of students who hd the 12 BPS includes five ctegories for curriculum rigor, which re bsed on the number nd level of courses completed. The highly rigorous ctegory includes 4 yers ech of English nd mth; 3 yers ech of foreign lnguge, science, nd socil science; 1 dvnced plcement or honors clss or 1 dvnce plcement test score in ny subject; nd student hd tken pre-clculus, biology, chemistry, nd physics. Pge 11

16 most rigorous high school curriculum completed college compred with 47 percent who hd the lest rigorous curriculum. Additionlly, the higher the grdes student erned both in high school nd in the first-yer of college, the higher the likelihood of completion. Regrding first-yer college grde point verge, bout 71 percent of students who erned higher thn 3.0 hd completed college compred with 51 percent who erned between 2.0 nd 3.0. Students were more thn twice s likely to complete college for every one-point increse in first-yer college grde point verge. Decisions students mke regrding ttendnce, prticiption in collegite clubs, nd work hd vrying effects on completion. Students who were continuously enrolled during their studies were more thn 6 times s likely to grdute thn students who experienced one or more breks from enrollment 13 Additionlly, students who ttended college full-time were more thn twice s likely to grdute s students who ttended prt-time or some combintion of prt-time nd full-time, ll other fctors equl. Students who reported prticipting in collegite clubs were one nd onehlf times s likely to grdute s students who did not prticipte. Less thn hlf of students reported such prticiption. Students who worked 20 or more hours per week were less likely to complete bchelor s degree thn students who did not work. However, working less thn 20 hours per week ws not ssocited with lower completion rtes. Figure 4 illustrtes bchelor s degree completion rtes by the number of hours worked per week. 13 A brek includes not being enrolled for more thn 4 months t time. Pge 12

17 Figure 4: Bchelor s Degree Completion by Number of Hours Worked Per Week Percent who completed bchelor's degree Did not work or worked less thn 10 hours per week Worked hours per week Worked hours per week Source: Deprtment of Eduction. Worked 32 hours or more per week Note: GAO nlysis of Eduction s BPS dt. Trnsferring between institutions ws lso ssocited with lower likelihood of completion in tht students who trnsferred were little less thn hlf s likely to complete s students who did not. About 69 percent of students who strted t 4-yer institution nd did not trnsfer ttined bchelor s degree compred with 47 percent of students who strted t 4-yer institution nd trnsferred to nother 4-yer institution. The rte of completion for students who strted t 2-yer institution nd trnsferred to 4-yer institution ws roughly hlf of those who strted t 4-yer institution nd did not trnsfer. 14 Figure 5 illustrtes the bchelor s degree completion rte fter 6 yers ccording to type of institution first ttended nd trnsfer sttus. 14 Since our popultion includes only 2-yer students who trnsferred, we tested to see if the effect of trnsferring ws insted n effect of strting t 2-yer institution. We found tht it is trnsferring tht ccounts for the vrince in completion, not type of first institution. Pge 13

18 Figure 5: Bchelor s Degree Completion by Type of First Institution Attended nd Trnsfer Sttus Percent who completed bchelor's degree Strted t 4-yer nd trnsferred to 4-yer Strted t 2-yer nd trnsferred to 4-yer Strted t 4-yer nd did not trnsfer Source: Deprtment of Eduction. Note: GAO nlysis of Eduction s BPS dt. After controlling for other fctors, we found tht disdvntged students were no less likely to complete bchelor s degree thn other students. However, s we hve noted, students from disdvntged bckgrounds re less likely to ttend college in the first plce. Sttes nd 4-Yer Institutions Hd Vrious Methods to Foster Bchelor s Degree Completion While sttes nd 4-yer colleges nd universities re employing vrious methods to foster bchelor s degree completion, informtion on the effectiveness of these efforts is limited. Over two-thirds of the sttes responding to our survey reported hving t lest one effort in plce to foster bchelor s degree completion. Hlf the sttes indicted dditionl ctions they would like to tke to foster bchelor s degree completion, but cited stte budget constrints s fctor preventing them from moving forwrd. As wy to foster bchelor s degree completion, 4-yer colleges nd universities we visited were engged in ctivities designed to improve the lerning experience for students nd strengthen support of students. In Pge 14

19 some cses, officils ttributed increses in retention to their efforts to foster completion. Sttes Are Using Vriety of Efforts to Foster Bchelor s Degree Completion, but Would Like to Do More Sttes Seek to Increse the Number of Students Entering Postsecondry Eduction Thirty-four of the 48 sttes responding to our survey, including the 5 sttes we visited Florid, Mrylnd, Oregon, Texs, nd Virgini reported hving t lest one effort in plce to foster bchelor s degree completion. Most of these sttes reported efforts tht fell into three brod ctegories: (1) efforts to increse the overll number of college grdutes by incresing the number of students entering postsecondry eduction; (2) efforts to help colleges improve their performnce in retining nd grduting students; nd (3) efforts to help individul students remin in college nd to encourge timely completion for these students. While sttes reported tht lmost hlf of their pproches hve been evluted, the instnces where sttes provided specific evlution results were limited. Hlf of the sttes indicted tht there were dditionl ctions they would like to tke to foster bchelor s degree completion, but cited stte budget constrints s fctor preventing them from moving forwrd. Nineteen sttes hve efforts to increse the number of bchelor s degrees wrded by incresing the number of students enrolling in postsecondry eduction. This pproch includes efforts such s incresing the number of students redy for college, educting students nd prents bout college requirements nd costs, nd providing finncil ssistnce to help cover college costs. Incresing student rediness for college. Some sttes hve efforts to improve the cdemic rediness of students so tht more students hve the opportunity to ttend college. Kentucky hs P-16 prtnership tht focuses on ligning stndrds between high school nd college to ensure students re cdemiclly prepred for college. 15 Kentucky reported in our survey tht the stte hd ligned high school grdution stndrds with college dmissions stndrds by creting single high school curriculum for ll students. The stte hs dopted n online dignostic test designed for sophomores nd juniors to test their rediness for college mthemtics in time to improve these skills nd void remedil plcement in college. Oregon hs implemented proficiency-bsed dmissions stndrds tht 15 The terms K-16 or P-16 describe movement by eductors, politicl officils, nd business leders to work together in more systemic wy to strengthen eductionl chievement from kindergrten or pre-school through completion of the college degree. Pge 15

20 specify certin knowledge nd skills students should demonstrte for dmission to its public universities. The stndrds re intended to provide more ccurte informtion bout student rediness for college nd encourge students to choose chllenging coursework tht will prepre them for college. Oklhom uses ssessments in the eighth nd tenth grdes to provide students feedbck on their progress in prepring for college. In ddition to student feedbck, colleges use ssessment results to improve curricul nd instruction. The stte reported tht since this effort begn 10 yers go there hve been increses in the number of high school students tking college preprtory courses, prticulrly mong blck students. Educting students nd prents bout college. To increse the numbers of students enrolling in postsecondry eduction nd ultimtely completing bchelor s degree, some sttes re focusing on rising wreness mong students nd prents bout the benefits nd costs of postsecondry eduction. Texs, for exmple, hs pln tht centers on counseling students nd their prents bout wht is necessry to enroll in postsecondry eduction. The stte provides informtion on the benefits of postsecondry eduction, the cdemic preprtion necessry for enrolling, nd the costs of ttending, including informtion bout vilble finncil id nd how to qulify. These efforts re designed to support its gol of incresing its enrollment from just under 1 million students in 2000 by dding 500,000 new college students by Providing finncil id for college. Finncil ssistnce is nother wy sttes seek to increse the number of students enrolling in college. Severl sttes hve progrms tht provide monetry ssistnce to cdemiclly qulified students bsed on cdemic merit, finncil need, or some combintion of the two. For exmple, Oklhom provides free tuition t public institutions for students whose fmilies hve incomes below $50,000 nd meet other requirements, including completing prescribed high school course of study with t lest 2.5 grde point verge. Oklhom reported tht the performnce of students in this progrm hs exceeded tht of the generl student popultion. Another exmple is the West Virgini Higher Eduction Grnt Progrm, which provides ssistnce to cdemiclly qulified, but needy students who ttend college in West Virgini or Pennsylvni. West Virgini s evlution of the progrm reveled tht grnt recipients hd higher grdution rtes thn students receiving other types of finncil id nd students who received no finncil id. Pge 16

21 Stte Efforts to Help Colleges Improve Their Performnce in Retining nd Grduting Students Mny sttes reported efforts to improve the performnce of colleges in the res of retining nd grduting their students. Such efforts include promoting ccountbility for colleges by collecting nd, in some instnces, publishing retention nd grdution rtes. Sttes lso promote ccountbility by tying funding minly for public colleges to performnce. Sttes re lso shring informtion with colleges bout retention strtegies to foster incresed rtes of bchelor s degree completion. Promoting ccountbility for colleges. In order to hold colleges nd universities ccountble for their performnce in the res of student retention nd grdution, sttes must first collect consistent informtion from these institutions. Three-fourths of the sttes tht responded to our survey reported tht they collect dt tht llow them to clculte nd trck retention nd grdution rtes for individul institutions nd cross the stte. Specificlly, 24 of these sttes reported tht they collect enrollment nd grdution dt on individul students from public institutions only, nd 9 sttes reported collecting these dt from both public nd privte institutions in their sttes. 16 Hving these dt llows the stte to clculte retention nd grdution rtes for ech institution nd the system s whole. Additionlly, becuse the institutions provide the stte with individul student records, the stte cn trck the eductionl progress of student who ttends more thn one institution. This enbles the sttes to include trnsfer students in their grdution rte. The dt re limited to student trnsfers within the stte. Eighteen sttes reported tht they promote ccountbility by publishing the performnce of their colleges nd universities on mesures, including retention nd grdution rtes becuse some officils believe tht this motivtes colleges to improve their performnce in those res. In Virgini, stte tht uses multiple ccountbility mesures, officils told us tht institutions re not compred with other institutions in the stte with respect to the vrious performnce mesures. Rther, ech institution works with the stte to identify ntionl peer group of institutions with similr chrcteristics with which to be compred. In this wy, institutions cn see whether their performnce is on pr with institutions tht hve similr missions nd serve similr types of students. In ddition to 16 Additionl sttes my collect summry dt on grdution nd retention rtes from individul institutions, rther thn collecting enrollment nd grdution dt for individul students tht cn be trcked cross institutions. Pge 17

22 mesuring retention nd grdution rtes, Virgini requires its public institutions to mesure nd report on certin student lerning outcomes to demonstrte the vlue of ech institution to its students. Nine sttes reported ccountbility efforts tht hve finncil implictions for colleges nd universities to encourge them to grdute their students in timely mnner. These efforts include linking portion of stte funding to n institution s performnce on multiple mesures or mking incentive pyments to institutions bsed on their performnce in the res of retention nd completion. Tennessee hs performnce-funding progrm in which institutions ern bout 5 percent of their stte funding for performnce on multiple indictors, such s retention nd grdution. In nother vrition, Pennsylvni provides finncil bonus to ny 4-yer institution in the stte, whether public or privte, tht grdutes more thn 40 percent of in-stte students within 4 yers. 17 Shring retention strtegies. Five sttes reported efforts to improve institutionl performnce by shring informtion mong stte nd college officils bout strtegies to help students remin in college. For exmple, the Oregon University System formed retention work group to provide forum for developing nd shring cmpus inititives to enhnce retention. The group hs used nnul systemwide nd institutionl dt on retention nd grdution to identify res tht need to be ddressed to increse retention. The group looks t retention efforts tht seem to be working on specific cmpuses nd shres informtion with other cmpuses. As result of its work with tribl governments to increse retention of Ntive Americn students, the system developed Ntive Americn resource guide tht includes informtion bout topics such s outrech nd retention efforts of colleges, finncil ssistnce, childcre progrms, nd community college trnsfer procedures. Officils in Oregon ttribute the increses in grdution rtes t most cmpuses in the system to the work of this group. Stte Efforts to Help Individul Students Remin in College nd to Encourge Timely Completion Twenty-two sttes reported efforts directly imed t helping students remin in college nd encourging timely completion for these students. Mny such stte-level progrms provided funding to support efforts crried out by individul colleges, such s progrms tht provide cdemic nd socil support directly to students. Other efforts seek to ese student 17 Students who grdute within 5 yers lso count towrd the bonus if they re in 5-yer bcclurete progrms. Pge 18

23 trnsfers mong colleges, utilize technology to help students complete their degree, or include finncil incentives to encourge students to complete their bchelor s degrees in timely mnner. Funding college progrms tht provide support services for students. Severl sttes provide funding for college-run progrms designed to support students in need of ssistnce. For exmple, through its Access nd Success progrm, the Mrylnd Higher Eduction Commission provides funds to colleges nd universities 18 for the opertion of progrms to increse retention nd grdution rtes of their undergrdutes. The colleges hve used these funds to, mong other things, operte summer bridge progrms tht cclimte students to college the summer before they enroll nd provide dvising, tutoring, nd counseling services to students who re lredy enrolled. New York s Collegite Science nd Technology Entry Progrm, imed t incresing the number of low-income students who pursue creers in mth, science, technology, or helth-relted fields, provides funding for services such s enriched science nd mth instruction, grdute school test preprtion, nd creer wreness. Fcilitting trnsfer mong institutions. Seven sttes reported efforts to fcilitte trnsfer from one college to nother s n pproch to foster bchelor s degree completion. Officils in Florid told us tht estblishing policies tht help students trnsfer from community colleges to 4-yer institutions ws importnt becuse the community college system is considered the point of entry for most college students in the stte. Florid hs common course numbering for ll public institutions in the stte nd requires public institutions to ccept trnsfer credits for ny course they offer tht student completes t nother institution. Officils told us this policy prevents students from needlessly duplicting coursework, sving both the stte nd students money, long with reducing the time it tkes to complete degree. Florid lso hs sttewide policy tht gurntees dmission to the stte university system s junior for ny student who completes n Associte of Arts degree. Officils in Florid told us tht without these policies it would be difficult for community college students or other trnsfer students to complete their degrees. They cknowledged, however, tht these policies could be t odds with encourging timely 18 Historiclly Blck Colleges nd Universities re defined s, mong other things, ny college or university tht ws estblished prior to 1964 nd whose principl mission ws, nd is, the eduction of blck Americns. Pge 19

24 degree completion becuse they mke it esier for students to exit nd reenter postsecondry eduction. Using distnce lerning. A few sttes reported using technology to enhnce ccess nd mke it esier for students to complete degree. Kentucky, for instnce, hs virtul university nd librry tht offers credit courses nd cdemic dvising for those who work or hve fmily situtions tht my not llow them to come to cmpus. This lso ids oncmpus students who need greter course vilbility. Students tking dvntge of these electronic offerings hve grown from fewer thn 300 students in 1999 to nerly 10,000 in Using finncil incentives to encourge students timely completion. Some sttes hve finncil id progrms to encourge timely degree completion. These progrms my hve time limits nd/or my require students to ern minimum number of credits ech yer for prticiption. For exmple, the University of Alsk Scholrs Progrm, trgeted t the top 10 percent of high school grdutes, offers finncil id for eight semesters provided tht the scholr remins in good stnding. Other sttes hve progrms tht impose finncil penlties if students repet coursework or tke too long to grdute. Florid s in-stte students must py the full tuition rte without stte subsidies for ny courses they repet more thn once. Uth requires tht students who enroll for credits in excess of 135 percent of wht is usully needed for degree py higher tuition for the excess credits. Texs pssed lw designed to encourge students to minimize the number of courses they tke to complete their degree. Stte residents who complete their coursework nd degrees in the stte with no more thn three ttempted hours in excess of the minimum required for grdution re eligible to pply for $1,000 tuition rebte from their institution. Officils told us tht bout 1,500 students received tuition rebtes in the cdemic yer. Hlf the Sttes Would Like to Do More to Foster Bchelor s Degree Completion Twenty-four sttes listed t lest one re in which they would like to do more to increse bchelor s degree completion rtes. Mny of these desired ctions delt with incresing finncil id for students nd incresed finncil support to colleges to help their students succeed. Some wnted to offer specil funding for colleges tht perform well in certin res relted to retention nd college completion. Others wnted to improve preprtion of high school grdutes for college or improve trnsitions from one level of eduction to nother. Almost without exception, the sttes cited stte budget constrints s significnt fctor preventing them from moving forwrd with these ctions. Pge 20

25 Four-Yer Institutions Foster Completion by Improving Lerning nd Support of Students Enhncing the Lerning Experience Our visits to 11 colleges nd universities in five sttes showed tht inititives in these institutions cluster round two min pproches to foster bchelor s degree completion: (1) enhncing the lerning experience by creting smller lerning communities tht foster greter connections to the institution nd (2) strengthening support of students to promote cdemic success. In some cses, officils ttributed increses in retention rtes or higher retention rtes for certin groups of students to these pproches. Nerly ll of the colleges nd universities we visited were engged in efforts designed to enhnce the lerning experience for students, primrily by creting smller communities tht foster greter connections to the institution. These pproches im to increse students enggement in cdemics nd provide them with network of fculty nd other students who cn support them cdemiclly nd socilly. These pproches re employed both in nd out of the clssroom, nd most focus on esing the trnsition from high school to college for first-yer college students. Linking courses. Severl of the colleges we visited re trying to enhnce the lerning environment by giving students smll clssroom experience tht will provide them greter opportunities to connect with fculty nd their peers, not unlike the experience they would hve hd in high school. For exmple, Texs A & M University t Corpus Christi, Hispnic Serving Institution, 19 requires ll full-time, first-yer students to enroll in lerning communities clusters of three or four clsses in which the course content is linked. Students re typiclly enrolled in lrge lecture course with 150 or more students nd two other courses with 25 or fewer students from the lecture course. In ddition to covering course content, instructors help students lern how to succeed in their first yer of college, helping with topics such s study skills on n s needed bsis. Portlnd Stte University provides its students smller lerning communities in the freshmn nd sophomore yers through its University Studies progrm. According to officils there, the university developed the progrm in 1994 to ddress disppointing retention rtes from the freshmn to sophomore yer. Officils told us tht, becuse few students live on cmpus, the university hs to crete opportunities for students to 19 Hispnic Serving Institutions re defined s hving t lest 25 percent of their full-time equivlent students who re Hispnic, of which no less thn 50 percent re low-income individuls. Pge 21

26 connect to the cmpus vi the clssroom. The required freshmn nd sophomore courses re comprised of students who meet s whole with fculty nd in smller mentor sessions, led by upper-level or grdute students. Officils told us they think the upper-level students who serve s peer mentors for the freshmn clsses re prticulrly helpful for mny first-genertion college students who ttend the university nd my find college more difficult to nvigte. Officils t both universities reported positive outcomes for these lerning progrms. Specificlly, t Texs A & M students withdrew from the lrge lecture courses t lower rtes nd hd higher grdes in these courses when tken s prt of the lerning community. They lso ttributed retention rtes for first-yer minority students tht re on pr with other first-yer students to the lerning communities. At Portlnd Stte, officils ttributed increses in retention from the freshmn to sophomore yer, s well s from the sophomore to junior yer, to its University Studies progrm. Using service lerning. Connecting clssroom lerning to the community is nother pproch colleges re tking to enhnce the lerning experience nd crete sense of belonging. The Regionl Ecosystem Applied Lerning Corps ws estblished in 1997 through prtnership between Southern Oregon University in Ashlnd, Oregon, nd community nd government orgniztions. This AmeriCorps 20 progrm engges students in the clssroom nd through community-bsed projects deling with lnd mngement issues. One student, who went to college directly from high school but left fter 2 yers, told us tht the Regionl Ecosystem Applied Lerning Corps plyed lrge prt in his decision to finish his bchelor s degree becuse it llowed him to connect his studies to the community while working. He noted tht it ws difficult to return fter 4-yer brek becuse college life felt unfmilir to him. Providing residentil lerning opportunities. For those students who live on cmpus, some colleges re iming to improve the lerning experience by enhncing eductionl opportunities vilble to students in the residence hlls. Florid Stte University in Tllhssee, Florid, instituted its first living-lerning community in residence hll in the fll 20 AmeriCorps is network of ntionl service progrms tht engge bout 50,000 Americns ech yer in intensive service to meet criticl needs in eduction, public sfety, helth, nd the environment. Pge 22

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