A recent report released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicates that graduation rates and successful transfer among North Dakota colleges and universities outpaced the national six-year average in nearly every category—whether they started at a two-year or four-year institution or attended full-time or part-time. The new report tracks the progress of students over a six-year time frame and accounts for those who switch from one school to another or take time off.
“This report is more accurate in that it takes into account our state higher education institutions and the close relationship they have with each other. It is more reflective of the actual student progress to graduation than other means of measurement,” said North Dakota University System Interim Chancellor Dr. Larry C. Skogen. North Dakota was one of only five states to have more than 20 percent of its students who start at two-year colleges successfully finish at four-year schools, according to the study. The national average is 16 percent.
The inclusion and analysis of transfer student data is relatively new. Current federal data reporting using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDs) includes only first-time, full-time students and excludes transfer students. IPEDS is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the National Center for Education Statistics of behalf of the federal government to gather information from postsecondary institutions that participate in the federal student financial aid programs.
Lisa Johnson, director of system-wide student entry, transfer, and retention, said the report provides a more accurate picture of graduation rates than traditional figures that follow student progress within a single institution. “The report is indicative of quality transfer programs, attentiveness to academic advising and student support services, clear transfer pathways, and strong supportive transfer policies,” she said.
Several statewide initiatives continue to facilitate seamless transfer of credits from one North Dakota institution to another. Examples of these programs include common course numbering and the General Education Requirement Transfer Agreement or GERTA, which established an approved set of general education courses that are transferable among NDUS campuses, the five tribal colleges, and Jamestown University. Johnson continued by noting that many campuses publish online resources that enable students to view course equivalencies from other institutions even prior to transfer.
In December, the North Dakota University System launched its public strategic plan dashboards. The dashboards illustrate the measurable objectives behind the main goals of the plan through an interactive website. The dashboards include both IPEDS and Student Achievement Measures (SAM) to give an accurate view of graduation and retention rates in North Dakota, a measure of student success in the NDUS strategic plan. The report also includes SAM Data, which is officially reported by campus registrars.
The report shows that the completion rate for students who start at four-year schools is 64.61 percent in North Dakota and nationally, it is 62.85 percent.