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Introducing IEHE’s RealityCheck Report

Completion Rate. The beacon of institutional success. The metric that everyone points to to say whether or not an institution is successful. The metric used to justify funding and support. The metric used to decide which institutions are better than others.

Graduation Rate. The metric that ignores differences in institutional and student characteristics. The metric that fails to take into account external factors. The metric that doesn’t give insight into HOW to improve. The metric that doesn’t tell the whole story.

At the Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education, we think there is a better way to use completion rate data to tell the whole story of the work an institution is doing, by assessing its student success data against the perfect comparator–itself. It’s time for a RealityCheck.

Institute for Effectiveness Logo links to RealityCheck Page

Administrators, staff, and students at colleges and universities across the country work hard to be successful. Institutions implement initiatives to reach out to and help improve the performance of underperforming student groups. Each institution is a unique combination of student and institutional characteristics; no two are exactly the same.

But when it comes time to evaluate institutional performance, we treat institutions as if they are all the same. We lump them together and compare their performance on different metrics: acceptance rate, retention, completion rate. We make judgements about how well colleges and universities serve their students based on how they perform on these metrics as compared to other institutions. We assume that a university with a 75% graduation rate is better than a college with a 50% graduation rate.

All colleges and universities would love to see 100% of their students graduate. But what does it mean when an institution’s completion rates are less than 100%? Did the institution fail?

Of course not.

The reality is that comparing your institution’s completion rate to that of others doesn’t tell your whole story to potential students, accreditors, regulators, governing boards, alumni, and other stakeholders.

Metrics like completion rates are important measures of performance. But comparing your completion rates to those of the institution across town or others around the state ignores the fact that those institutions are different from yours.

Institute for Effectiveness Logo links to RealityCheck Report page

At the Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education, we know there is a better way to tell the stories of the work your administrators, staff and students are doing: by assessing the institution’s student success against the perfect comparator—itself.

The IEHE’s RealityCheck Report does this by analyzing reported completion rates against RealityCheck (expected) completion rates, which are based on the institution’s unique characteristics. An institution’s customized RealityCheck Report analyzes graduation rates for each of its degree levels, and explores subgroups of full-/part-time, first-time/transfer, and Pell/non-Pell students.

Since the RealityCheck Report uses existing IPEDS data, there is no burden on your institution’s data teams to provide new data. Additionally, the RealityCheck Rate provides an unbiased analysis of your institution’s performance.

You can find more details—including how to order your 2019 & 2020 RealityCheck Reports—on  our website.

The Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education (IEHE) innovates and improves higher education standards through our strategic research, publicly available resources, and partnerships with colleges and universities. We provide extensive expertise on data strategy, IPEDS, institutional research and student success to drive institutional effectiveness.