For Immediate Release:
May 5, 2016
#CountAllStudents: Colleges & Universities Launch Commencement Season Campaign to Tell the Stories of Class of 2016 Members Missing from Federal Graduation Rate
Student Achievement Measure Leads Effort to Highlight Deep Flaws in Current Graduation Rate as Schools Push for Change so Transfer & Part-Times Students are Counted
Washington, DC – As commencement season begins, colleges and universities across the country today launched #CountAllStudents — a coordinated campaign to share stories of their 2016 graduates who transferred or attended part-time and are therefore missing from the federal graduation rate.
Through dozens of student vignettes available on the Student Achievement Measure’s (SAM) website and shared on social media, the schools are urging the federal government to update its deeply flawed graduation rate, which only reports outcomes for students who begin college full-time and don’t transfer. Additional student stories will be shared throughout graduation season as schools push for the federal government to replace its outdated methodology with one that counts all students.
The students who attend colleges and universities today are markedly different from students who attended over two decades ago when the federal graduation rate methodology was established in 1990. One-third of today’s college students are over 25 years-old, 20 percent are employed full-time while enrolled, and one in four students has children, according to recent figures released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Federal sources show that more than half of bachelor’s degree recipients attend more than one school and two-thirds of community college students are enrolled part-time. Yet those students, among others, are not counted as part of the widely reported and cited federal graduation rate.
Among the students featured as part of #CountAllStudents are:
- Migdalia Crego, SUNY Empire State College who will graduate with a degree in Community and Human Services and plans to use her degree to work with Alzheimer’s disease patients or young people with disabilities. Migdalia returned to college as an adult to realize her lifelong dream of earning a degree and to set a positive example for her grandchildren. Not only will Migdalia be fulfilling her own dream, she will do so alongside her daughter who is also earning her degree this spring. They will walk proudly together in Empire State’s commencement ceremony.
- Jessica Dobbins, Doane College, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business Human Resources, and continue her work as an injury claims specialist at State Farm with the goal of becoming a supervisor and returning to college to obtain an MBA. As a mother of three small children, working full-time and coaching sports, Jessica needed a flexible program that offered evening classes so she could attend part-time in a small, supportive class setting.
- Susannah Haisley, Clemson University who will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a French minor and who has accepted an offer to work at Gartner in Florida as an Account Executive. Susannah transferred to Clemson University from the University of Richmond as a junior due to financial reasons and, although the transition was difficult, believes her experiences at both Clemson and Richmond have prepared her to excel in the work place now and in the future.
- Allie Hardacre, Cloud County Community College who will graduate this month with an Associate of Science Degree in Recreation and then transfer to Kansas State University and enroll in their Park Management and Conservation Program. Allie’s goal is to work in one of the National Parks. She started her education as part-time, night student while working to support herself and her six-month old baby as a single mom.
- Rodrick McKee, Lane College who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, and plans to continue coaching at Lane College on his way to earn a graduate degree in Sports Administration. Rodrick started his educational journey playing football at a community college but had to take time off to help support his mother. He returned to school by walking onto the football team and earning an athletic scholarship and the position of starting quarterback. After earning his associate degree, he transferred to Lane College to continue his studies on the way to his bachelor’s degree.
- Juan Ramos, University of Southern Indiana (USI) who will graduate with a Bachelors of Arts: Double major in International Studies and Spanish Studies and will soon begin work at Jasper Engines as an interpreter and supervisor for their transmission unit. Juan transferred to USI, due to financial barriers and to pursue his dream of playing for a collegiate soccer team. While at USI Juan was able to receive the necessary personal, academic, and financial support and he was also selected to play for the USI soccer team as a mid-fielder.
“The degrees earned by students who transferred or attended college part-time aren’t any less valuable or meaningful than those who attended full-time and remained at one school. In fact, many of these degrees are earned by students who have graduated despite significant obstacles or difficult circumstances. Yet, the federal graduation rate ignores these students and instead gives the impression that many of them have dropped out,” said Dr. Christine Keller, Executive Director of the Student Achievement Measure, which is coordinating the #CountAllStudents campaign. “Many prospective students and policymakers rely on the federal graduation rate to guide their decision making process, but are unaware that they’re only seeing part of the picture. This is an egregious gap in data reporting that must be fixed so we can count all students and recognize their success.”
Created to help tell the full story that the federal graduation rates misses, SAM is a voluntary web-based tool that allows institutions to detail the progress and completion of full-time, part-time, and transfer students, as well as those who enroll in multiple institutions. With nearly 600 post-secondary institutions already participating, SAM is tracking the progress and success of 600,000 more students than the federal government’s measure.
The outdated federal graduation rate is due in large part to a congressional ban on student-level data. The ban rendered the federal government unable to reliably and consistently report the outcomes of students after they transfer, and has only recently added minimal reporting for part-time students.
Through the #CountAllStudents campaign, institutions are drawing attention to the misleading information portrayed by the federal graduation rate, which is frequently cited as a sign of institutional performance. Under the federal rate calculations, a full-time student who transfers essentially counts as a dropout at his or her original institution and the school to which that student transfers doesn’t receive any credit if that student graduates. Under the current federal methodology, President Obama, who attended Occidental College as an undergraduate before transferring and graduating from Columbia University, would have been classified as a non-graduate, or dropout, at his original institution and would not have been counted at his second institution.
SAM participation is free and open to all degree-granting, accredited postsecondary institutions. Colleges and universities that would like to join the SAM effort to #CountAllStudents can do so by visiting the SAM website.
SAM is a collaborative effort of the six national presidential higher education associations — the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the American Council of Education (ACE), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). ###