Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Degree Progress Measures for Community Colleges: Analyzing the Maryland Model

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Degree Progress Measures for Community Colleges: Analyzing the Maryland Model

Article excerpt

Over a two-year period beginning in March 2004, community colleges in Maryland developed a revised set of accountability indicators for a state-mandated Performance Accountability Report first required by a 1988 statute. A major innovation was a new model for assessing student degree progress. This article explains the development and components of this new degree progress model and examines how three sets of environmental factors - service area characteristics, institutional characteristics, and student body characteristics - correlate with graduation-transfer rates for sixteen Maryland community colleges. The analysis is exploratory with several methodological limitations, but is also suggestive of how environmental factors influence student outcomes. The article concludes with a comparison of actual graduation-transfer rates with expected rates following the framework advocated by Astin.

Introduction to the Maryland Degree Progress Model

The Maryland Model analyzes the progress toward degree completion of community college students by incorporating 1) developmental education needs and developmental course completion, 2) interim measures of success, and 3) transfer to other institutions, including private and out-of-state institutions. The model was developed by the Maryland Community College Accountability Work Team during 2004 in response to a charge from the Maryland Council of Community College Chief Executive Officers. The presidents appointed the Work Team on March 5, 2004, with a charge to create a statewide outcomes assessment model incorporating developmental studies, graduation, and transfer.

From March 2004 to February 2005, the work team reviewed state accountability systems and indicators (Clagett, 2005). The basic framework for the Maryland Model was adapted from statewide accountability practices in Texas (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2004). The definition of the study cohort was adapted from Florida (Florida Community College System, 2003).

Guidelines and reporting templates were distributed to the institutional research offices of Maryland's sixteen community colleges in February 2005. Working with the institutional research professionals through the Maryland Community College Research Group, the work team provided direction and clarifications throughout the spring and summer of 2005. By January 2006, all sixteen colleges had completed the analysis for the cohort entering in fall 2000. Graduation, transfer, accumulation of 30 credits in good standing, and continuing enrollment were calculated for the fall 2000 cohort four years after initial entry.

The Maryland Council of Community College Chief Executive Officers endorsed the Maryland Model of Community College Student Degree Progress and other proposed changes to the state-mandated Performance Accountability Report on September 16, 2005. The Maryland Association of Community Colleges presented the proposed revisions, including indicators derived from the Maryland Model, to representatives of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, Department of Legislative Services, and Department of Management and Budget on November 17, 2005. The proposal was endorsed at that meeting and subsequently adopted by the Maryland Higher Education Commission in February 2006. The first Performance Accountability Reports incorporating indicators based on the Maryland Model were submitted to the Commission July 1, 2006.

Defining the Model Cohort

People attend community colleges for a variety of reasons other than earning a degree. Identifying degree-seekers is not straightforward, as student goal data are often incomplete, changeable, out of date, and even deliberately false. Students may not know whether they want to pursue a degree when they enroll. Data collection systems may not reliably collect student goal data. Relying on a student's declared major is problematic since many colleges require all students (including non-degree-seekers) to declare a major, and to qualify for financial aid, students may have to declare themselves to be degree-seeking. …

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