Educational Goals: The Forgotten Factor in Measuring Student Outcomes at Community Colleges

Achieving the Dream (AtD) released the November/December 2007 Data Notes recently and gave a thoughtful analysis of Enrollment Status and Student Outcomes for full- and part-time students. This is of particular importance since AtD reports that 46 percent of students enroll part-time. The authors report striking differences between full-time and part-time students when it comes to persistence.

The largest persistence gap between full- and part-time students was seen at the second term (21 percentage points) rather than in the second or third academic years (16 and 12 percentage points, respectively).

Part of this descrepency may be explained by the attainment of educational goals by part-time students. Not all part-time students are seeking credentials, and therefore may not “have the desire to” persist in order to achieve their educational goals.

Unfortunately for institutions that are part of the AtD initiative, educational goals are not part of the reporting requirement. It might be useful to explore how educational goals vary over time, and if these changes relate to persistence rates. Another limiting factor in the analysis of educational goals is that most ERP systems (from which the AtD data are derived) do not capture educational goals in a meaningful way – we discussed this in a recent post. Institutions may be capturing educational goals at the time of application, but rarely do they have these data follow students through the education life cycle.

While the AtD data are important peices of the persistence puzzle, they often won’t provide for a complete picture. Other data that are captured in the Student Information System (SIS) are critical for individual institutions. In order to make the most of both AtD and SIS data, institutions should identify automated ways to blend the two. One way to accomplish this is to create dimensional data models…but that’s a topic for another post.