Student retention and completion rates at BC

Recently, Director of Research and Planning for the Office of Effectiveness and Strategic Planning Alec Campbell collected data on Bellevue College student retention rates and completion rates. The data tracked students who had enrolled during the fall quarters of 2005 to 2013, noting whether they had graduated with an AA or BA, transferred to another school and earned a degree there or dropped out of college. According to Campbell, students enrolled in fall quarter were tracked because fall is when most students first enroll. Campbell said that the data “allows us to see whether students are persisting at Bellevue or going somewhere else and when they graduate from other places.”
Although most colleges only track what happens to students while they are still enrolled, Bellevue College uses a service called the National Student Clearing House which has enrollment and financial aid data on students all over the country. “Their primary purpose is to deal with financial aid so your financial aid records can follow you, in a good way, from one institution to another,” according to Campbell, which he also said helps students with things like scholarships and lending fees.

This data from the National Clearing House helps Campbell keep up with where students transfer to after they leave BC. “They have enrollement data all over the country, the point being that our students can see where we transfer to,” He said. According to Campbell, this is beneficial to Bellevue College because “a lot of students transfer before they complete, so they kind of disappear in the system after they transfer and it looks like you have a very low graduation rate,” if the transfer data isn’t tracked. “The drop in retention, the students coming back, isn’t as bad as it appears because many students have transferred on to a four-year institution,” he said.

This data from the National Clearing House helps Campbell keep up with where students transfer to after they leave BC. “They have enrollement data all over the country, the point being that our students can see where we transfer to,” He said. According to Campbell, this is beneficial to Bellevue College because “a lot of students transfer before they complete, so they kind of disappear in the system after they transfer and it looks like you have a very low graduation rate,” if the transfer data isn’t tracked. “The drop in retention, the students coming back, isn’t as bad as it appears because many students have transferred on to a four-year institution,” he said.

Campbell stated that it was important to keep up with this data because they can see what percentage of students dropped or stopped out and can work towards making that percentage lower. “A third or a little bit more of our students who have dropped or stopped out, so that’s what we want to focus on,” he said. He then added that BC was not the only college focusing on completion. “there’s a big change in the way that people think about community colleges,” he said. “For many years, 50 years, it was all about open enrollment, making it easy for people to get in the door, get into college. In the last ten years there’s more focus on completing college.”

As well as trying to improve upon the amount of people getting a degree, Campbell stated that the Office of Effectiveness and Strategic Planning is also going to make this data more available on their website. He then went on to say that this data would be formatted in the same way as the enrollment data that is already on the webpage. For the enrollement data, there is a line graph and table of data so people can look at trends and even a way to choose different subjects so people can see how many students enrolled in, for example, an Arts and Humanities class in 2013. There is even a video tutorial which teaches people how to navigate the data and use it to their advantage and a map which shows where students come from as well as what their genders and ages are. The retention and completion data is an Excel spreadsheet right now, according to Campbell. “We’re working on a better interface,” he said.

According to Campbell, this would be helpful because the data may be confusing to some people at this point. For example, the data shows that at the end of the year in 2013, only one percent of Bellevue College students were still enrolled. This is not totally accurate, however, because some people who achieved and associates degree and are listed in the AA category might still be enrolled at BC working towards their BA. “We have to do it this way so that it adds up to 100 percent,” said Campbell.

Campbell said that for students, all this data meant was that the Office of Effectiveness and Strategic Planning, as well as Student Programs, will be working harder to keep them from dropping out. “Some students struggle and there are things we can do to help them and some students sail right through,” he said. “What students can do is persist and graduate.”

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