RealityCheck • Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education
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It’s Time for a RealityCheck

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? Current student success metrics neglect to take into account the characteristics that research shows are correlated with completion rates. Is it a fair assessment to compare student success rates of institutions while ignoring important differences in their characteristics? We don’t think it is. We think it’s time for a RealityCheck.


While completion rates are important measures of student success, they don’t tell the whole story. These metrics are often incomplete, failing to account for all students and changing institutional demographics. These metrics also tend to force comparisons that aren’t particularly realistic. Can we really compare the completion rates of an open admissions college with a highly selective college? Should we?

RealityCheck Rate Description

RealityCheck is Different

The RealityCheck Report allows an institution to assess student success against the perfect comparator—itself. This annual report uses the Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education’s proprietary RealityCheck Rate analysis to determine your institution’s expected completion rates, providing important context for understanding your institution’s student success. Since existing IPEDS data is used, there is no burden on your institution’s data teams.


The RealityCheck Report is the first and only analytic tool of its kind. Your institution’s custom Report will:

examine IPEDS Outcome Measures data, while taking into account institutional and student characteristics.

compare between actual and expected institutional completion rates across several groups, including rarely used and newly available data for transfer-in and part-time students.

determine whether or not your institution is meeting expectations for the success of specific student groups.

provide recommendations for using the RealityCheck Rate analyses to help understand and improve student success at your institution.

offer strategies for communicating your institution’s achievements using the RealityCheck Rate.

Request your institution’s RealityCheck Report

for more information

RealityCheck in the Real World

Completion is an important measures of student success; that’s why it is the basis for the RealityCheck Report. But instead of comparing your institution against the one down the road, the RealityCheck Rate allows you to compare your institution’s own expected completion rates against your actual rates. With this information, you can quickly see which of the student groups at your institution meet or exceed expectations and which are falling short. You can target support initiatives to those student groups that need them most. You can see if your targeted programs are working as intended. You can demonstrate to stakeholders–your students, your accreditor, your Board of Trustees, your State Legislature–how your students are performing relative to how they should be, rather than in relation to how students at other institutions are performing.


The RealityCheck Rate analysis provides great new insight into your student success metrics, so your institution may also be interested in understanding these insights in the context of comparison institutions. The RealityCheck Report includes an option to include the RealityCheck Benchmark Analysis, which analyzes the performance of your institution’s student groups with respect to that of self-selected groups of comparison institutions. Using aggregate data for a group of 10-20 of institutions, you’ll be able to see if your institution’s performance falls above or below your comparison group’s average.

RealityCheck Performance Gauge
RealityCheck Sample Promotion

The RealityCheck Report

Your custom RealityCheck Report will include an analysis of your institution’s self-reported IPEDS Outcomes Measures of undergraduate student success with the RealityCheck Rates for all student groups applicable to your institution for the requested reporting year(s). Student groups available to be analyzed include: Full-time and Part-time students, First-time and Transfer-in students, and Pell and Non-Pell recipient students. The analyses will be performed for your institution’s undergraduate degree levels, including certificate, associate, and bachelor’s level, as applicable.


In your institution’s RealityCheck Report you will find:

Results of the actual and RealityCheck Rate analysis for the year(s) selected

Reusable graphical representations of the metrics

Recommendations for interpreting and synthesizing the data

Ideas for sharing the RealityCheck Report and engaging others at your institution

If your institution also requests the RealityCheck Benchmark Analysis, it will include:

Results of the Benchmark Analysis between your RealityCheck performance and the average performance of your comparison institutions

Reusable graphical representations of the analysis

The option to request comparison analyses for multiple groups

The Methodology: The RealityCheck Rates used in the RealityCheck Report are derived from regression analyses that are designed to help your institution understand your student success results in the context of your unique student and institutional characteristics. These proprietary analyses incorporate contemporary variables, such as open admissions (which is particularly important given that that nearly half of undergraduate institutions are now test optional and/or open admissions), in place of more traditional variables, like standardized test scores. For each of your institution’s student groups and degree levels, separate regression models are constructed and analyzed. For example, if an institution offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, the RealityCheck Rates for all groups are derived from 24 regression models – one for each group/degree level combination, and the RealityCheck Report includes the results of these analyses.

RealityCheck Report Cover on Ipad

The Price You Pay for a RealityCheck

Your RealityCheck Report will be customized to meet your institution’s needs. RealityCheck Reports are available by year, starting with the 2019 Report. The Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education is accepting orders for 2019 & 2020 RealityCheck Reports.  We are currently offering early adopter pricing. Each annual report is priced at $7,500. For a limited time, you can order your 2019 and 2020 RealityCheck Reports together for $14,000 (a $1000 savings)!


If your institution is interested in a supplemental RealityCheck Benchmark Analysis, the IEHE will work with you to select 10-20 institutions for the analysis. You can add the RealityCheck Benchmark Analysis to your RealityCheck Report for $4,000. Interested in multiple comparison groups? Additional self-selected comparison groups can be added for $3000/group (some restrictions apply). Let us know what you’re looking for so we can discuss how to design a RealityCheck Report that best meets your needs.


There are also options available for organizations working with multiple Higher Education institutions. Accreditors, State Higher Education Systems, and other organizations can request aggregate data reports for groups of institutions. The Institute for Effectiveness team will work with you to address your goals and determine your analysis and reporting needs.

Request your institution’s RealityCheck Report

for more information