Following the Mobile Student: Can We Develop the Capacity for a Comprehensive Database to Assess Student Progression?

The need for complete measurements of student success in the nation’s colleges and universities is critical today. To thrive as a nation, we must ensure that more students reach their educational goals. Unfortunately, current enrollment statistics and graduation rates don’t tell us enough about the details of student achievement to allow us to develop effective policies for student success. A major problem in measuring student success in postsecondary education is the difficulty in tracking students’ progress as they transfer from one institution to another. Data on these students are collected, of course, but such student-level data, often termed “unit-record” (UR) data, generally are specific to each institution. That makes it difficult to determine whether a “dropout” at one school goes on to complete a degree at another. In short, we know that hundreds of thousands of students transfer each year, and we know that current data on student retention reported at the institutional level are incomplete and probably inaccurate, but we have no way of knowing the extent of those inaccuracies.

Funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Learn more about State Postsecondary Data Systems.

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, April 1, 2003
Peter T. Ewell, Paula R. Schild, and Karen Paulson
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