Accountability Measures for Public University Student Success

Alabama public universities measure student success in various ways.

2.1 IPEDS Retention Reports and Graduation Rates Reports are the most widely known data that is 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 the calculated percentages of first-time students who graduate or complete their program within 150% of a normal timeframe (typically 6 years).

Universities that have less selective admission policies and serve a greater number of students requiring financial aid tend to have lower retention and graduation rates 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 a university. These measures only recognize retention or degree completion from the institution where the student originally began college.

2.2 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.

2.3 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 university 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.

2.4 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.