Toward Convergence: a Technical Guide for the Postsecondary Metrics Framework

Posted by Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) on May 16, 2016

The evidence is abundantly clear that a college degree is essential to economic success and social mobility in the 21st century, especially for low-income students and students of color, who historically have been left out of our higher education system.

However, many speculate about the value and outcomes of specific programs and institutions—in terms of both supporting students through to graduation and providing them with sufficient economic and noneconomic payoff. The information available today is inadequate and simply leaves the public wondering about answers to key questions about college access, progression, completion, cost, and outcomes. The Institute for Higher Education Policy has partnered with
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a Metrics Framework (see Table ES1) built on a decade of research and experimentation by the field.

Recognizing the pressing need for better data, institutional and state initiatives have implemented a series of voluntary data collections to fill the gaps left by federal data systems in particular. We analyzed the metrics and definitions these voluntary initiatives use, along with data specifications in national and state data collections, to identify points of consensus in the field. The resulting key metrics fall into three major categories:

• Performance metrics measuring institutional performance related to student access, progress, completion, cost, and post-college outcomes
• Efficiency measures considering how resources impact college completion, driven by increased interest in college costs and affordability
• Equity metrics seeking to include all students and accurately represent the higher education experience of populations that are underserved and may be “invisible” in other data collections

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