Commmunity college Graduation and Transfer Data

According to the Career and College Readiness and College Completion Act of 2013, it is the State’s goal that all degree-seeking students enrolled in a public community college earn an associate’s degree before leaving the community college or transferring to a public four-year higher education institution. Therefore the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) tracks community college students’ graduation and transfer outcomes. MHEC does not have the ability to follow students who transfer to out-of-state institutions. Therefore, the data only reflects transfers to institutions in Maryland.

For this data set, the analysis cohort is all first-time, full-time students entering Maryland community colleges within the fall term of a given year. Three successful outcome measures are tracked.

  • Graduated and transfered: Student graduated with an associate degree or lower-division certificate and transfered to a Maryland four-year college or university.
  • Graduated/Did not transfer: Student graduated from a Maryland community college with an associate degree or lower-division certificate and did not transfer to a Maryland four-year instituion.
  • Transferred to four-year college or univeristy without graduating: Student transferred to a Maryland four-year insitution, withou having completed an associate degree or lower-division certificate.

Now Most Community College Transfer Students Graduate Before Transfering

I decided to display the data as a line chart, but with different visual clues from MHEC’s original line chart. For my chart, I added shading between graduated and transferred and transferred without graduating. I like how it clearly shows that in 2014 the number of students who graduated before transferring surpassed those who transferred before graduating. Although the numbers had been trending in that way, the legislation likely had some impact.

I wish we had the data to analyze the outcome of both types of transfer students at four-year institutions. Past research suggests that the students that graduated community college first prior to transferring be more successful, but I wonder if this is still true. This might be a question to examine in the future.

64% of a Cohort does not transfer or graduate in four years

The line chart above does not capture the approximately 64% of the cohort that do not graduate or transfer within four years, so I decided to make an area chart. The area chart shows that the majority of students that begin as first-time, full-time community college students do not graduate or transfer within four years. Although when the number of first-time, full-time students decreased after peaking during the Great Recession, the percent of students that did not graduate or transfer has dropped to about 60% of the cohort.

This data set does not capture if these students are still persisting or if they dropped out. It is also possible that these students transferred to a two-year or four-year institution out of State. This data set only captures a subset of successful outcomes for community college students: graduation and in-state transfer.

This chart reminds me that while measuring the success of transfer students that did or did not graduate is interesting and important, there are a large number of students that entered community college as full-time students who have not graduated or transferred.

Maryland Community College Student Outcomes

This data only tells part of the story of community college student outcomes, but it is a good place to start. One of the biggest issues in education public policy is the lack of data that tells the whole story. Another issue is knowing what data is important to analyze. I plan to continue to look for data to analyze.

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