Pinpointing Where Improvements are Needed

This Toolkit provides specifications for a variety of Loss /Momentum Analyses that allow colleges to understand where students lose momentum or fall off their educational pathways and, thus, where there are opportunities to redesign programs and supports to help students advance.

The Student Completion Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are designed to provide colleges with a dashboard on overall rates of student progression and completion. Improving performance on these aggregate measures will require colleges to identify specific areas where improvements are needed. To do this, colleges should begin by asking questions about students’ experiences during each stage of the Loss/Momentum Framework (LMF).

Longitudinal analysis of student cohort data can help colleges identify where in each stage of the LMF students are likely to struggle, and where there are opportunities for improvement. Here we provide guidance for colleges on this process of pinpointing where improvements are needed.

For each stage of the LMF, we outline:
  • Key questions colleges should ask.
  • Sample analyses and insights: Summaries of longitudinal cohort analyses CBD colleges have found useful in identifying improvement opportunities, along with their main findings. These are meant to provide examples of the sorts of analyses your college could conduct to inform student success efforts.
  • For each stage of the LMF, examples of two analyses, along with the coding logic, that CBD colleges found particularly revealing or useful. These model analyses helped challenge prevailing assumptions about what happens to students, and helped to raise questions about ways college programs and services are designed.
Adult basic skills programs:

An instructional program for adults that includes courses designed to improve basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Associate's degree:

An award earned for satisfactory completion of at least 2, but usually less than 4 years of full-time equivalent college work. CBD colleges report completions of Associate in Arts (A.A.), Associate in Science (A.S.), and Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees, and analysis can be conducted separately.

Attempters:

Students who attempt at least 9 college-level semester credits (usually equivalent to 3 courses) in a given program area in a given time period, whether or not they successfully complete them.

Bachelor's degree:

An award earned for satisfactory completion of 4 years of full-time equivalent college-level work. In some cases, students may complete their 4 years of college-level work in 3 years.

Certificate:

A formal award certifying the satisfactory completion of a postsecondary education program. CBD collects completions of less-than-1-year, and 1- to 2-year certificates, and analysis can be conducted separately.

Cohort:

A cohort is a group of people studied during a period of time. The individuals in the group have at least one statistical factor—such as when they started college—in common. Tracking a cohort makes it possible to compare progress and outcomes of different groups of students (i.e., groups defined by race, age or other demographic characteristics) and to determine if there are gaps in achievement among groups of interest. CBD cohorts include students who attempted at least one course during their first term in the following areas:

  • College (certificate or degree) credit
  • College remedial or developmental
  • Adult basic skills (ESL, ABE, or ASE/GED)
  • Non-credit vocational (includes courses that could potentially lead to an occupational certificate or certification, but does not include personal interest courses)
Completion by Design:

A five year initiative designed to help low-income young adults progress through community college more quickly and with a greater chance of success. The initiative’s goal is to substantially increase the completion and graduation rates for large number of students while holding down college costs and maintaining the quality of programs and services.

Completion pathway:

The integrated set of policies, practices, programs, and processes intentionally designed to maximize student completion across the loss-momentum framework.

Concentrators:

Students who successfully complete (with a grade of C or better) at least 9 college-level semester credits (usually equivalent to 3 courses) in a program area, in a given time period.

Dual enrollment:

A program that allows students to enroll in college courses while still enrolled in high school.

Entry-level courses:

The first or lowest-level college-level course students take in a subject such as mathematics, reading, or writing. (See Gateway courses.)

First-time in College:

A student who enrolls for the first time in college during the academic year with no previous college level experience or credential.

Full-time:

CBD considers a student enrolled full-time if he or she attempts 12 or more semester or quarter credits in a given term.

Gatekeeper courses:

The first or lowest-level college-level course students take in a subject such as mathematics, reading, or writing. (See Entry-level courses.)

Key Performance Indicators:

A set of metrics designed to measure students’ progress at each point of the institutions’ connection with the student—connection, entry, progress, and completion. KPIs are used to monitor institutional performance and the effects of improvement strategies to track student progression through academic milestones.

Loss points:

Points in a student’s academics where he/she losses academic momentum, or falls off his/her educational pathway.

Loss/Momentum Framework:

The guiding framework for Completion by Design, which is comprised of four stages that capture the student experience: 1) Connection (interest to application), 2) Entry (enrollment to completion of gateway courses), 3) Progress (steady progress toward completing program requirements), and 4) Completion (completion of program of value for further education and employment).

Milestones:

Measurable educational achievements that include both conventional terminal completions, such as earning a credential or transferring to a baccalaureate program, and intermediate outcomes, such as completing developmental education or adult basic skills requirements.

Momentum points:

Measurable educational attainments, such as completing a college-level math course, that are empirically correlated with the completion of a milestone.

Non-attempters:

Students who did not attempt at least 9 college-level credits (usually the equivalent of three courses) in any program area in a given period of time.

Non-concentrators:

Students who attempt to enter a concentration but do not successfully pass at least 9 semester credits (usually the equivalent of three courses) in a given time period.

Occupational certificate:

A program of study consisting of one or more courses, designed to prepare students for employment in a specific field.

Part-time:

CBD considers a student enrolled part-time if he or she attempts less than 12 semester or quarter credits in a given term.

Pathway analyses:

A tool that uses college data to pinpoint the dynamics of student loss and momentum from connection through completion.

Program of study:

A set of courses and related activities that lead to an attainment of educational objectives such as a certificate or an associate’s degree, sometimes referred to as “major” or “program code”.

Student Completion Metrics:

A set of metrics designed to measure highest educational outcomes achieved over a specific period of time. Usually computed for cohorts of students, especially those with no prior college experience for comparative purposes.

Student Pathway:

The route a student takes to connect with, enter, progress through, and complete his/her program of study.

Transfer:

A student who stops studying at the home institution and enrolls at another institution.

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