Opinion: When it Comes to Measuring Community College Success, Graduation Rates Fall Short

"Students, parents, policymakers and the public need good information to understand how well community colleges are doing to help students succeed. These groups typically rely on cursory information about tuition costs, the reputations of specific programs, and the percentage of students who graduate from the institution or transfer to four-year colleges to assess whether a particular institution does well by its students. This information only reveals so much. To students, in particular, completing a community college degree or certificate is not an end in itself but the next step to something greater," Karen Stout writes in an opinion article for The Hechinger Report. 

"Graduation rates are an indicator that institutions are achieving success during the time students enroll. But such data, and information about the institution’s reputation that comes from trustworthy sources, provide insufficient evidence of the longer-term benefits that a community college can have on the lives of its students and the community it serves.

Student success in community college goes beyond earning a degree or certificate or achieving a certification goal. It also means improved skills, better employment prospects, and economic growth for families, communities and our nation as a whole.

While completion is crucially important, if a student completes a credential that does not translate into successful and engaging work, financial well-being, and a thriving social and civic life beyond college, then the value of that credential is limited or even lost.

At Achieving the Dream, which has spent the past decade working to bolster college retention and completion for a larger proportion of students, especially low-income students and students of color, we have long realized that doing justice to the many ways community colleges benefit students, employers and whole communities requires more than a single statistic."

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Publication Date: 3/7/2018

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