From an interesting statistics-laden piece by Dean Dad:
Far more community college students transfer prior to completing the Associate’s degree than actually complete first. According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, about 350,000 transfer before completion, compared to about 60,000 who complete first.
That matters in several ways.
Most basically, it suggests that measuring community colleges by their graduation rates misses the point. A student who does a year at Brookdale before transferring to Rutgers, and subsequently graduating, got what she wanted, but she shows up in our numbers as a dropout. In states with “performance funding,” the community college could be punished for her decision, even if it was what she intended to do all along. . .
People who only look at “headline” numbers, and don’t bother with the asterisks, look at graduation rates and assume that something is going horribly wrong. But a ratio of 35 to 6 is such a honker of an asterisk that failing to account for it amounts to misrepresentation. . . .
My preferred measures of community college performance would be based on actual student behavior. For example, does the percentage of bachelor’s grads in a given area with community college credits roughly match the percentage of undergrads who are enrolled at community colleges? (Nationally, it does.) If so, then the idea of community colleges as dropout factories is hard to sustain. For programs not built around transfer, how are the employment outcomes? I wouldn’t look at loan repayment rates, just because the percentage of students with loans is so low; it’s a skewed sample. I would look at achievement gaps by race, sex, age, and income. I would look at ROI for public investment, as well as at local reputation. . . .
And a bunch more. I don’t know much about the world of education policy: Maybe some of these things are already being measured? Seems important, in any case.