Student Success Defined

Each institution defines “student success” based on its unique role, scope, and missions. Broadly speaking, an individual’s postsecondary success centers around several common themes* including:

  • Student Retention: Students remain, re-enroll, and continue their undergraduate education. Retention rates, progression rates, and cumulative credit hours to receive a degree are all measures of student progression.
  • Student Educational Attainment: Students persist to completion and attainment of a certificate, diploma, degree within a program, or educational goal. Graduation rates, academic program degree production, and licensure pass rates are measures of educational attainment.
  • Student Academic Achievement: Students receive quality educational instruction. Academic achievement can be measured when students are successful in academic courses and in subsequent courses; graduate at an accredited institution and when applicable, are enrolled in an accredited academic program.
  • Student Advancement: Students proceed to and succeed at subsequent educational and occupational endeavors for which their college degree or program was designed to prepare them. Student advancement can be measured by the success of two-year college transfers, undergraduates admitted into graduate school and graduates who find gainful employment.
  • Holistic Development: Students develop as “whole persons” as they progress through and complete their postsecondary experience. While the higher education accountability reports do not measure this aspect of the educational experience, it is important to acknowledge the role colleges and universities play in the development of critical thinking skills, emotional maturity, social skills, ethical/spiritual growth and physical wellness.

An institution’s performance on student success measures is influenced by a myriad of factors. The institution’s role, scope, and mission influence the type of students enrolled and their level of academic preparation and financial security. Institutions with less selective admissions criteria that serve low income, working poor, and minority students may have lower retention and graduates rates than more selective institutions serving more academically prepared and affluent students. In addition, many institutions serve as a great place to start a student’s educational endeavors, but later it may benefit the student to transfer and complete elsewhere. Recent improvements in information technology and mutually beneficial data sharing agreements will allow for more robust and nuanced student metrics which will offer a multidimensional view of student and institutional success.

*Adapted from the many writings of Joe Cuseo including Thriving in College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development (SBN-13: 978-1465290946).

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