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Improving College Completion - Gathering Information: Tips for Legislators

September 15, 2010
State legislators are in a prime position to help increase college completion. They have the power to enact effective policies that can increase the number of students who earn a certificate or degree. Before developing policies, however, legislators will want to know exactly what the problems are in their state. This guide provides some tips for gathering essential information and data related to college completion.

Ask Great Questions

  • How many adults in the state have a postsecondary credential or degree?
  • How many students are placed into remedial courses and how do they perform in those courses? How many remedial students complete a degree?
  • How successful are students in first-year, introductory courses (also known as gateway courses)?
  • Do institutions in the state administer exit surveys to track the reasons students drop out? If so, what are the main reasons?
  • How many students transfer between two- and four-year institutions? Is there a transfer and articulation policy in place that eases the process for students?
  • What are the overall college retention and graduation rates in the state? What are the rates for specific populations (i.e., by race/ethnicity, gender, age, income, and part-time/full-time enrollment status)?
  • How long does it take students to complete their degrees?
  • How many credits do students take before graduating? Do students take excess credit hours (credits above what is necessary to graduate)?
  • What are colleges doing to increase student success?
  • Does the state provide incentives or disincentives for institutions to increase productivity and efficiency?
  • Does the state have a specific goal or plan to increase the percentage of adults who hold postsecondary credentials?