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Measuring College Engagement, Achievement

This year's National Survey of Student Engagement is out, and it offers some interesting ideas about how to judge whether colleges are doing right by their students.

This annual study of college students' attitudes about their higher-education experience is even more interesting at a time when President Obama is calling for more students to get some kind of postsecondary education, and momentum is building behind the idea that higher education needs to redouble its efforts to support students.

USA Today has an interesting story about how feedback from the NSSE has brought about change in some colleges.

On a related note, the National Governors Association put out a new brief that offers states guidance as they try to find ways to measure their colleges' student achievement.

The NGA points out that inadequate data has hampered states in evaluating how well their colleges are doing. Funding colleges based on enrollment, or on "attempted credits" rather than completed credits, creates no incentive to boost student achievement, the NGA says. Measuring their success with a graduation-rate formula that excludes large numbers of community college students and others doesn't yield an accurate picture of how well colleges are doing in their central mission.

The organization urges states to track students' rates of completing remedial and core courses, and advancing from remedial to credit-bearing courses. It also calls for tracking their rates of transfer from two-year to four-year institutions, and their attainment of credentials.

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