Short answer. Yes, free-and-reduced price status likely impacts college segment of initial enrollment. See the pretty Sankey diagram below that shows the college segment of initial enrollment for high school graduates by free- and reduced-priced meal (FARMS) eligibility status. However, read my data notes below before making any conclusions.

Most notably 47% FARMS eligible high school graduates failed to enroll in any college segment compared to 24% of non-FARMS eligible high school graduates. Also, 10% of FARMS eligible high school graduates initially enrolled in an out-of-state college compared to 24% of non-FARMS eligible high school graduates.

Click here if you can not see the diagram.

Long answer. As an analyst, I can think of a long list of reasons why this data does not answer this question. The first being is that the data source does not list actual numbers, just percentages. So I had to back into the numbers I used in the diagram. However, due to rounding, the numbers do not add up to the proper totals. If this was for real analysis I would try to get the actual numbers. I need to use numbers, even if they are not quite correct to get the diagram to render properly.

But for this project, I am just attempting to see if I can code this type of diagram and getting a general sense of what the diagram would show. On that end, it is a success. I can do the coding, I am sincerely hoping that you can see the diagram above right now. I also think I really like the visual effect. I think it works well when you have a few categories for each node.

Notes about the Data

  • The number of students are estimates from the percentages published by the Maryland Longitdinal Data System Center. I have not fully checked my calculations, this is primarily for me to learn how to create the diagrams using the software. I am also attempting to learn which types of data visulizations I find useful and worth pursuing. I also am trying to better understand the data.
  • Due to rounding in the data source the numbers do not add up to the correct totals. This is just for a general idea of the data, not for specifics.
  • Some notes adapted from those provided by the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center, all errors are my own.
  • The number number of years following high school graduation impacts the initial postsecondary enrollment numbers. Graduates who enrolled in Private Career Schools or Continuing Education and Training Certificate sequences are not included.
  • This dashboard uses “initial enrollment,” which counts only the first enrollment of a student after graduation. For example, a student graduates high school, enrolls in a summer community college course, and then enrolls in an out-of-state college in the fall. The initial enrollment count for that student is one in-state enrollment. Other methods of counting enrollment may count that student as one in-state and one out-of-state enrollment. Accordingly, when reviewing, and especially when comparing post-secondary enrollment reports, it is important to understand how the enrollments are being counted.
  • The number of high school graduates reported on this dashboard includes: (a) only the counts of 12th grade graduates; and (b) eliminates any duplicate graduation recordsSome numbers are rounded or estimated due to data suppresssion. For general illistrative purposes only.

College of Initial Enrollment

During the 2013-2014 academic year approximately 58,300 students graduated from a Maryland public high school. Of those graduates, approximately 39,900 students had enrolled in college by the following year. The data set captures the higher education segment (community college, public four-year, State-aid independent institution, or out-of-state institution) that a graduate initially enrolls.

As shown in the Sankey diagram, high school graduates enrolled initially as follows: 30% at community college; 17% at a public four-year institution; 3% at a State-aided independent institution; and 19% at an out-of-state institution. An additional 32% of high school graduates did not (yet) enroll in a postsecondary education captured in this dataset.

This data set only captures the college of initial enrollment. For example, if a student enrolls in a community college for a summer class and then enrolls in a public four-year institution in the fall, the student will be recorded as enrolling in community college.

I wonder how the college of initial enrollment for public high school graduates compares to the total enrollment of the various sectors.

Click here if you can not see the diagram.

Source: Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center, Maryland Public High School Graduates with Initial Postsecondary Enrollments, 2013-2014 data

Notes about the Data

  • Some notes adapted from those provided by the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center, all errors are my own.
  • Due to rounding the numbers do not add up correctly, so this is just for proof of concept if I had the actual numbers.
  • The number number of years following high school graduation impacts the initial postsecondary enrollment numbers.
  • Graduates who enrolled in Private Career Schools or Continuing Education and Training Certificate sequences are not included.
  • This dashboard uses “initial enrollment,” which counts only the first enrollment of a student after graduation. For example, a student graduates high school, enrolls in a summer community college course, and then enrolls in an out-of-state college in the fall. The initial enrollment count for that student is one in-state enrollment. Other methods of counting enrollment may count that student as one in-state and one out-of-state enrollment. Accordingly, when reviewing, and especially when comparing post-secondary enrollment reports, it is important to understand how the enrollments are being counted.
  • The number of high school graduates reported on this dashboard includes: (a) only the counts of 12th grade graduates; and (b) eliminates any duplicate graduation records
  • Some numbers are rounded or estimated due to data suppresssion. For general illistrative purposes only.

Refining the Pipeline

I spent yesterday trying to figure out how to create a divergent stacked bar chart in amcharts that would display properly on my website, which is based in WordPress. I was unsuccessful. I will need to continue reading through the documentation which is written for people who actually know how to code. Since I got frustrated with my original project, I decided to return to the immediate college enrollees pipeline again to refine it as I learn more about how amcharts operate.

This version of the Sankey diagram is a bit more readable. I was able to wrap the label text and add more space on the right-hand side. I also added code that will allow the data or the image to be downloaded, which I think is a cool feature. I am still having a bit of an issue getting the amcharts diagrams to display as part of the blog, but they work when looking at an individual post. I also added int the percentage numbers, each of which had to be separately added. I have read in the documentation that it is possible to load data into an amcharts from an external source, such as a spreadsheet, but I have not yet figured it out.

As with other versions of this diagram, the biggest weakness is that it does not capture transfer students.

Immediate College Enrollees Pipeline

Overall 65% of students that enrolled in college directly after high school graduation graduated college, from the same sector, by age 25. An additional 3% of students were still enrolled in college (in the same sector). Looked at another way only 31% of high school graduates graduated from college from the same sector that they enrolled in.

Click here if you can not see the diagram.

Source: Maryland Longitudinal Data System, Maryland Public School Pathways 2011

Notes about the Data

  • These notes are adapted from the notes provided by the Maryland Longitudinal Data System. Any errors are my own.
  • To be counted as a community college graduate, the student must have enrolled in any community college and graduated from any community college. Students who start at a community college but graduate from a college in another sector are not counted as graduates. Students who start in another sector but graduate from a community college are also excluded. To be counted as persisting (still in college), the student must have NOT graduated from any community college and be enrolled in any community college in Fall 2019. Some students who enrolled in community college transferred from the college and are enrolled in another four-year public, state-aided independent, or out-of-state institutions. Those students are not reported here.
  • To be counted as a public-four year college graduate, the student must have enrolled in any four-year public and graduated from any four-year public. Students who start at a four-year public but graduate from a college in another sector are not counted as graduates. Students who start in another sector but graduate from a four-year public are also excluded. To be counted as persisting (still in college), the student must have NOT graduated from any four-year public and be enrolled in any four-year public in Fall 2019. Some students who enrolled in a four-year public transferred from the college and are enrolled in another community college, state-aided independent institutions, or out-of-state institutions. Those students are not reported here.
  • To be counted as a State-aided indepented college graduate, the student must have enrolled in any state-aided independent institutions and graduated from any state-aided independent institution. Students who start at a state-aided institution but graduate from a college in another sector are not counted as graduates. Students who start in another sector but graduate from a state-aided independent institution are also excluded. To be counted as persisting (still in college), the student must have NOT graduated from any state-aided independent institutions and be enrolled in any state-aided independent institutions in Fall 2019. Some students when enrolled in a state-aided independent institutions transferred from the college and are enrolled in another community college, public, or out-of-state institutions. Those students are not reported here.
  • The out-of-state table above evaluates within sector college graduation independent of college of enrollment. To be counted as a college graduate, the student must have enrolled in out-of-state institutions of any type and graduated from an out-of-state institution of any type. Students who start at an out-of-state institution but graduate from a college in Maryland are not counted as graduates. Students who start at a college in Maryland but graduate from an out-of-state institution are also excluded. Out-of-state institutions may be community colleges, public four-year, or other types of private institutions.

More Than 80% of the Student BODY At Most COmmunity COlleges are Maryland Residents

According to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, 91.6% of Maryland community college students are Maryland residents. This is not surprising at all as community college students tend to attend their local community college. From looking at a data table I was able to see that more than 80% of the student body at most community colleges are Maryland residents. However, only 55.4% of students at Allegany College of Maryland are Maryland residents. With that information and a bit of curiosity about using Datawrapper for mapping, I decided to build a map showing the location of the main campus of each community college and the percent of students that are Maryland residents.

Building the map was relatively simple. I used google to look up the address for the main campus address for each of the 16 community colleges in the State. I then pasted that information into the program and added typed in the Maryland resident information for each college. From my basic sense of the locations of the colleges, the placements look accurate, but I have not checked them.

I struggled with how to best visualize the data since most of the colleges have more than 80% of the student body being Maryland residents. Reducing the number of color categories to three really helped with this issue. It highlights that Allegany College of Maryland is an outliner and Hagerstown Community College is almost an outliner. I probably should have either rounded the numbers to make Hagerstown Community College 80% and reduced the categories to two colors, but I think it is a little fun to see that Hagerstown Community College does not quite meet the 80% requirement. I could also say something such as all but one community college has 79% or more of its student body as Maryland residents. If I was highlighting Allegany College for some reason I would probably do one of those options. But since I am just playing around with the data to see what jumps out at me, I have not done that this time.

After I mapped the data I saw that Allegany College is very close, less than 3 miles, from the West Virginia border. It is also close to the Pennsylvania border. There are other community colleges that are not far from the State borders, but these colleges seem to draw a smaller percentage of non-Maryland residents. Perhaps if I put the color break at a higher percentage and treated Allegany College less like an outliner that story would become clearer, but I have not yet tried that.

WHat I learned from this Mapping Experience

  • Adding location markers in Datawrapper is easy, but can be time consumming
  • Datawrapper is significantly easier to use than other mapping software such as ArcView, but the data crunching functionality is less
  • I have not yet figured out how to show just one of Maryland's counties in a map
  • When most of the data is in the same range, but there are outliners, the data can be hard to visualize
  • I haven't decided how to handle colleges with mulitple campuses when mapping. Representing the "main" campus seems to be the best way for now.
  • Color breaks can change the data story

Another Attempt at a Sankey College Pipeline

Another day, another attempt at using amcharts to illustrate the college pipeline of Maryland public school students. This time I used the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center data. I am still struggling with getting the data to display in the chart in the way I want it to, but I am making progress. I figured out how to fade out categories when I do not know what happened to the students. For example, I faded out students that did not immediately enroll in a college directly after high school. These students may have never enrolled in college, may have enrolled in college at another time, or even enrolled in college in another country.

I still have not figured out how to have the full label on the right-hand side to display. I played around with a few settings, but none of them allowed the full label to show. There is documentation for the am charts software, but I have not yet read through it all and I do not have a ton of experience with writing javascript. I think if I experiment with it more I will continue to learn how to use it.

As I figure out the program you need to click on the actual post or this link to see the chart. I am working on this issue.

What I can learn from this Pipeline data

From this data, I can only learn the ultimate fates of 32% of the students who exited a Maryland public high in 2011 at the end of 12th grade. That is the percentage of high school exiters that graduated college (from the same sector they initially enrolled) or are still enrolled in college at the same sector.

I know nothing about the students who did not immediately start a college degree program in the fall and nothing about students that transferred between higher education sectors. To really understand the pathways I need more information. I would love to be able to illustrate how students flow through the higher education system. I want to know how many students reverse transfer, and how many of those who do get degrees, either an associate’s or a bachelor’s.

Notes About the PipeLine Data

The following are the notes about the data provided by the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center. The data explore the high school graduation, college-going, and college graduation for 12th grade students who exited Maryland public schools in 2011. The notes are very important because I am trying to deeply understand all of the data I am examining.

community College Notes

To be counted as a community college graduate, the student must have enrolled in any community college and graduated from any community college. Students who start at a community college but graduate from a college in another sector are not counted as graduates. Students who started in another sector but graduate from a community college are also excluded. To be counted as persisting (still in college), the student must have NOT graduated from any community college and be enrolled in any community college in Fall 2019. Some students who enrolled in community college transferred from the college and are enrolled in another four-year public, state-aided independent, or out-of-state institutions.

Public Four-Year NoTes

The four-year public table above evaluates within sector college graduation and persistence independent of college of enrollment. To be counted as a college graduate, the student must have enrolled in any four-year public and graduated from any four-year public. Students who start at a four-year public but graduate from a college in another sector are not counted as graduates. Students who start in another sector but graduate from a four-year public are also excluded. To be counted as persisting (still in college), the student must have NOT graduated from any four-year public and be enrolled in any four-year public in Fall 2019. Some students who enrolled in a four-year public transferred from the college and are enrolled in another community college, state-aided independent institutions, or out-of-state institutions. Those students are not reported here.

State-aided Independent Notes

The state-aided independent table above evaluates within sector college graduation and persistence independent of college of enrollment. To be counted as a college graduate, the student must have enrolled in any state-aided independent institutions and graduated from any state-aided independent institution. Students who start at a state-aided institution but graduate from a college in another sector are not counted as graduates. Students who start in another sector but graduate from a state-aided independent institution are also excluded. To be counted as persisting (still in college), the student must have NOT graduated from any state-aided independent institutions and be enrolled in any state-aided independent institutions in Fall 2019. Some students who enrolled in a state-aided independent institutions transferred from the college and are enrolled in another community college, public, or out-of-state institutions. Those students are not reported here.

Out-of-State Notes

The out-of-state table above evaluates within sector college graduation independent of college of enrollment. To be counted as a college graduate, the student must have enrolled in out-of-state institutions of any type and graduated from an out-of-state institution of any type. Students who start at an out-of-state institution but graduate from a college in Maryland are not counted as graduates. Students who start at a college in Maryland but graduate from
an out-of-state institution are also excluded. Out-of-state institutions may be community colleges, public four-year, or other types of private institutions.

Additional Notes

  1. Exiter is defined as a student who is enrolled in a Maryland public school through the end of 12th grade.
  2. High school graduate is defined as a 12th grade exiter who fulfills the requirements to graduate from a Maryland public high school.
  3. Immediate college enrollment is defined as a high school graduate who entered college as degree-seeking in the fall immediately following high school graduation.
  4. College graduate is defined as a high school graduate who entered college as degree-seeking in the fall following high school graduation and arned any college degree by age 25.
  5. Still Enrolled is defined as a high school graduate who entered college as degree-seeking in the fall following high school graduation, did not graduate from college and is enrolled in college in Fall 2019.
  6. Enrollment in a graduate program is defined as a high school graduate who entered college as degree-seeking in the fall following high school graduation, completed a college degree by age 25 and enrolled in a Master’s degree program.
  7. Graduation from a graduate program is defined a high school graduate who entered college as degree-seeking in the fall following high school graduation, completed a college degree by age 25, enrolled in a Master’s degree program and earned a Master’s degree by June 2019. Students enrolling in PhD programs, or professional degree programs (law, medical, etc.) are excluded from this analysis.

UnLabeled Category Limits Use of Data

After my last post about community college outcomes using data published by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), I went in search of more data to get a better sense of the story. I want to know what happens to students that initially enroll in a Maryland community college. I found some data published by the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) Center in 2016. It is almost exactly the data I am looking for, unfortunately, there was an unlabeled category that consisted of 25% of the cohort. With this unknown category being such a large part of the pie, I feel that the data is of limited use for really understanding the outcomes of community college enrollees. Despite my belief that the data may be limited, I am going to take a closer look at the data to see if I can learn anything from it.

It is also unclear the time frame after enrollment that the data covers. I know that the population is community college students that were enrolled during the 2008-2009 academic year. I also know that the data was published in 2016. It is unclear if the data set is all students; first-time, full-time students; or another population. I think that my next step may be to contact MLDS Center to clarify what data is being presented. There may have been additional information in the documentation that I have missed.

When I publish graphs in the future I want to be sure to be clear about the data that is presented. In education public policy I feel that this is especially important as the specifics matter. For example, a cohort of first-time full-time students is not the same as a cohort of all community college students.

If Data is Accurate: Few CC STudents Transfer; Fewer earn a BA

If this data is accurate, few community college students transfer to a Maryland four-year institution, only about 6% of the cohort. This is much less than the 12% of the first-time, full-time cohort in the data reported by MHEC. This leads me to believe that the transfer rate in this data source may be underestimated. I wish that I could trust that this data is fully accurate because, unlike the other data source, this data source reports the percent of students that earned a bachelor's from a Maryland four-year institution after transfer. It shows the specific community college to four-year institution pathway to a bachelor's degree that some experts recommend, especially to lower-income students as a method to save money. But it isn't a method to save money if students do not actually end up earning a degree. According to this data, 1% of the students (421 students) that begin at a community college earn a BA from a Maryland four-year institution.

If only 1% of a community college cohort earn a BA, then that pathway to a BA is broken. However, I need to dig into the data more, because other data sources report a slightly less bleak picture. According to data published by the Aspen Institute, which is shown below, nationwide 14% of community college students earn a BA within six years of transfer. However, like the MLDS data I discussed above, I am not sure of the student population, so I need to do more research into the data. Overall I need to better understand the data sources before I make any conclusions.

A Note About THis Data Presentation

As I have said in previous posts I have really been loving playing with data presentation using datawrapper. However, for the multiple pie charts shown above I ran into a few issues. Firstly, the website was being glitchy, not showing changes I had made to the graph and hiding the graph completely. Second, I was not able to make this type of graph look exactly how I wanted it to look. I did not want to show the percent for the grayed-out space and that was not an option because the categories are not the same. This is not surprising, I think that for that type of functionality I would need a graphic designer and not a web application. So while there are a few issues, I am still extremely happy with datawrapper. I am just trying to document for myself the limits of its functionality.

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.