Beyond Student Right-to-Know Data: Factors That Can Explain Community College Graduation Rates
Policymakers, educators, and researchers recognize the importance of community colleges as open door institutions that provide a wide range of students with access to college. At the same time, competing demands for the state funds that would support community colleges have resulted in reduced public allocations and higher student tuition fees. Understandably, therefore, both state policymakers and parents are increasingly focused on the returns to their public or private investments in education, and the outcomes of community college attendance are now under greater scrutiny. To facilitate the evaluation of the colleges, there are now available data, through the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act (1990), which amended the Higher Education Act, on every college’s graduation rate for fall semester cohorts of first-time, fulltime (FTFT) students in degree programs. This information is known as the Student Right-to-Know (SRK) data. A related public concern is how the outcomes of community college students can be improved. Therefore, attempts are now being made to clarify the way that specific students define success and to identify the college policies and practices that can promote success for all students. For
some community college students, college completion, defined as earning a degree or certificate, is the appropriate measure of success. For other students, success is demonstrated by transferring to a baccalaureate institution. Still others are satisfied with completing courses that increase their knowledge or skill level in a particular area even though their educational experience is not considered successful as defined by traditional educational outcomes.
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