#CountAllStudents: Colleges & Universities Launch Commencement Season Campaign to Tell the Stories of Class of 2018 Members Missing from Federal Graduation Rate
Student Achievement Measure Leads Effort to Highlight Deep Flaws in Current Graduation Rate as Schools Push for Transfer & Part-Times Students to be Counted
Washington, DC (May 2, 2018)– As commencement season begins, colleges and universities across the country today launched #CountAllStudents—a campaign to share stories of their 2018 graduates who transferred or started school part-time and are therefore missing from the federal graduation rate.
Through dozens of student vignettes posted to www.countallstudents.org 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student stories will be shared throughout graduation season as schools push for the federal government to replace its outdated methodology with one that counts all students.
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.
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.
Among the students featured as part of #CountAllStudents are:
- Danielle Card, University of South Florida, transferred because her previous institution did not offer social work as a major. Without transferring, Danielle would not have been able to pursue a career that she felt truly passionate about.
- Judy Njeri Clark, University of Alabama at Birmingham, who as a working mother started her undergraduate coursework in nursing part-time before transferring to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After graduation Clark will pursue a Master’s degree to become a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner.
- Matthew Clewett, Utah State University, dropped out of high school after his father passed away. He eventually earned his GED and enrolled at a community college. After two years, he transferred to Utah State University to study law and the U.S. Constitution. He will graduate with honor.
- David Henley, University of North Texas, started taking college classes part-time because he was on active duty in the Marine Corps. Due to his unit’s high operational tempo, he felt uncomfortable taking more than one class at a time. After his contract ended, he moved back to Texas and transferred to the University of North Texas. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in either law enforcement or corporate security.
- Jamie Melendez, Kansas State University, first attended Barton County Community College because it allowed her to stay home with her child. As a military spouse who moved several times, she transferred to Kansas State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
- Alexa Thompson, Michigan Tech University, lost both her parents to heart disease before graduating from high school. She enrolled at Albion College, but left after her third semester. In fall 2011, she started taking classes at a community college, where she was introduced to the federal TRiO program. Through TRiO, Alexa applied to the MiCUP summer research program at Michigan Tech University, and transferred there in fall 2015. After graduation she plans to attend graduate school to earn a Ph.D. degree in Neural Engineering.
“This spring, millions of undergraduates will proudly receive their diploma, yet many of them will either count as dropouts or won’t count at all on their institution’s federal graduation rate,” said Denise Nadasen, Director of the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), which is coordinating the #CountAllStudents campaign. “The federal graduation rate is widely used by students and their families—both directly and in popular college rankings—to make judgements on the success of individual colleges and universities in ensuring students finish with a degree. But the vast majority of people do not realize a huge part of the student success story is missing in those numbers. Many graduates continue to go uncounted.”
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 more than 630 post-secondary institutions already participating, SAM has tracked the progress and success of 1.3 million more students than the federal government’s measure.
Due to a congressional ban on student-level data, the federal government remains unable to reliably and consistently report outcomes of students after they transfer out, and has only recently added some reporting for part-time students and those who transfer in. That new reporting, however, is not incorporated into an institution’s singular federal graduation rate.
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 graduation rate calculations, a full-time student who transfers effectively 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 Trump, who attended Fordham University as an undergraduate before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, would have been classified as a non-graduate, or dropout, at his original institution and would not have been counted as having graduated from 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 – www.studentachievementmeasure.org.
Contact: Jeff Lieberson