Explain Graduation Rates with RealityCheck

At IEHE we are excited about RealityCheck, our new data analytic tool. VERY excited. (You may have noticed 🙂 ) So, what is this tool? With anything new, there is a little bit of a learning curve – but in this case – well worth it. The learning curve is short and the payoff is huge. In this post, we show how to explain graduation rates with RealityCheck.

Nearly a decade ago (in 2011), the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) released the higher education expected graduation rate calculator. The calculator allows an institution to enter some basic summary information about their student demographics. From that, they could quickly obtain an expected graduation rate.

There is just one problem. The calculator only works for a limited number of colleges and universities. And that number is getting smaller.

In order for the calculator to work, SAT/ACT information is required. But more than 1,000 four-year institutions do not require the SAT or ACT for admissions. So, the calculator doesn’t work for these institutions. And it really, really doesn’t work for those with open admissions. This includes many community colleges, as well as some four-year institutions.

RealityCheck solves this problem by NOT using standardized test scores (such as SAT/ACT) in the data analytics. As a result – ALL institutions that serve undergraduate students can be included in the data. ALL institutions can have expected graduation rates calculated on each of 12 different student groups. And for all of the undergraduate degree levels they offer – Certificate, Associate, and Bachelor’s.


A Case in Point

RealityCheck gauge showing a graduation rate of 68% for full-time, transfer-in, Pell students, and the resulting -3.0 differential.

Consider the following sample gauge from a fictional institution (we’ll call it Extraordinary University). Full-time students who transfer into Extraordinary U and receive Pell grant funding have a 68% completion rate. But this rate is 3.0 percentage points higher than predicted for this group. These students are performing better than would be predicted. Something for EU to be very proud of.

RealityCheck gauge showing a graduation rate of 14% for part-time, transfer-in, non-Pell students, and the resulting -4.0 differential.

Unfortunately, EU’s part-time transfer students who don’t receive Pell funding aren’t faring as well. These non-Pell students have a 14% graduation rate. That is 4.0 percentage points below the RealityCheck rate. This student group could definitely use some extra support.

As you can see RealityCheck’s data visuals make it easy for the institution’s stakeholders to understand which groups are over- or under-performing. This can be a powerful way to identify and address the student groups that could use special attention and support to help them succeed.


Want to Learn More?

Find out more about about RealityCheck by contacting IEHE. Learn how you can:

  • Use your RealityCheck Report to understand what you’re getting right, and where you have room for improvement.
  • Focus your institution’s limited resources on students who can benefit most from the support.
  • Show others the evidence that your team is making a difference in student success.
  • Better tell your institution’s student success story.