Community colleges have complained for years that the method of measuring graduation rates used by the U.S. Department of Education has a serious problem. The government asks colleges to track graduation rates each fall only for full-time students entering college for the first time.
At least there are some signs that the national media is beginning to pay attention. A recent article in USA Today by Mary Beth Marklein explains the issue nicely. Here in Texas, the Coordinating Board does reportedly keep tabs on part time students, and they are counted in formula funding contact hours, but the exclusion by the U.S. Department of Education is still a problem in these times of increased efforts to impose more "accountability."
The article also includes a link comparing funding for community colleges to universities, state by state.
From the piece by Ms. Marklein:
The policy has been around since 1990, when the Education Department, responding primarily to concerns about academic performance of athletes, began requiring institutions that receive federal financial aid to submit graduation data.
The data are posted on a website aimed at helping consumers who seek college information. And as policymakers, legislators, accrediting agencies and the public increasingly focus on academic performance, the measure has become a thorn in the side of many community colleges.
Four-year universities have their complaints about it, too, but community college advocates say the numbers paint an unfair and inaccurate picture of what happens on their campuses.
For example, the data primarily reflect the behavior of traditional-age college students. But the average community college student tends to be older, commute from home and juggle work and family.