Accountability Measures for Community College Student Success


The Alabama Community College System (ACCS), as a part of their process for developing performance funding criteria has established metrics that would best measure the effectiveness of their institutions. ACCS institutions will be participating in data collection initiatives coordinated by the American Association of Community Colleges called the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA). Until the VFA information is reported to ACHE, the IPEDS retention and graduation rates will be reported for the community and technical colleges as a placeholder:

  • IPEDS Retention Reports and Graduation Rates Reports are the most widely known. These are based upon data collected by the United States Department of Education as a part of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) reporting process. IPEDS Graduation Rates are based on the calculated percentages of first-time students who graduate or complete their program within 150% of a normal timeframe (typically 6 years for bachelor’s degrees and 3 years for associate degrees).

Community Colleges are open access institutions and serve a greater number of students requiring financial aid than universities that have selective admissions criteria and attract student with greater financial security. Lack of academic preparation and financial instability are the primary factors that lead to students dropping out of college. Greater community college student success is often found at institutions that have more short-term programs and are more rural. These measure also only recognize retention and credential completions from institutions that occurred where student originally enrolled.

2.5 VFA Student Success Rate Report measures the number of a first time entering freshman cohort that graduate, transfer or are still enrolled. This measure allows the measurement of the multi-purpose of community colleges as a place to earn a credential and a place to take general education credits before transferring to a university.

2.6 VFA Number of Degrees and Certificates Awarded Report focuses on recognizing the various workforce-related credentials earned by students at a community college. To best quantify student success at a community college, it is important to report all awards to students, including short-term certificates, stackable credentials, long-term certificates and associate degrees.

2.7 ACCS Retention Rate Report will not only include students retained, but those that completed any credential including short-term certificates, stackable credentials, long-term certificates and associate degrees.

2.8 VFA Community College Progression Report is measured by the percentage of the full-time freshman cohort students that earn 15, 24, and 30 hours in year one of their enrollment. Monitoring momentum points for students early in their matriculation will allow campuses to intervene with currently enrolled students to improve their time-to-degree.

2.9 Within-State Retention Reports and Graduation Rates Reports are based on similar IPEDS criteria, but also include students that transfer to other Alabama public colleges or universities. Students that transfer and/or graduate are included in the retention and graduation rates of the original institution. The source for this information is the ACHE student database, which uses the IPEDS definitions and cohorts. This measure captures subsequent enrollment and success and thus recognizes transfer as a positive activity and not as a negative one.

2.10 National Student Clearinghouse Graduation Rates Reports are based on similar IPEDS criteria, but also include students who transferred out of Alabama in order to continue their education and complete their postsecondary education. Students that transfer and graduate are included in the graduation rate of the original institution. This measure rewards a community college for the success of transfer students.
Note: NSC is a nonprofit and nongovernmental organization and is the leading provider of educational reporting, data exchange, verification, and research services. ACHE contracts with the NSC in order to be able to track students in the ACHE student database to other institutions outside of Alabama in the United States.

2.11 Graduation Rates Based on Ethnicity, Graduation Rates Based on Gender, and Graduation Rates Based on Need-based Aid reports use the same IPEDS criteria, but measures the ability of institutions to matriculate and subsequently graduate students from diverse populations.