Measuring success at Minnesota colleges, universities

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Graduation rates are among the most-watched metrics at Minnesota colleges and universities. On those numbers, the Legislature allots funding; governing boards evaluate administrators; rating services rank institutions, and parents and students decide where to enroll.

Yet graduation rates can be misleading markers of a school’s performance.

They fail to account for the differences in academic preparation and socioeconomic backgrounds of student bodies. Often, they overlook the selectivity of a school’s admissions. They’re typically based on full-time, fall-semester freshmen enrollment, omitting part-timers, transfer students and those who begin college in the spring. They don’t acknowledge how much money a school spends to guide students to completion, or assess whether those resources are deployed to good effect.

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