The data in Third Way’s report on public universities suffers from deficiencies. Importantly, the federal graduation data it uses counts students who transfer institutions as dropouts.
This deficient data led Third Way to the mistaken conclusion that six-year federal graduation rates reflect student success at Michigan public universities. With more complete data from the National Student Clearinghouse, the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) captures the full set of student outcomes. Using SAM, 44% of students graduate from Oakland University in six years, another 15% graduate elsewhere, and 21% are still enrolled. At Wayne State University, 34% of students graduate from WSU in six years, another 7% graduate elsewhere and 28% are still enrolled. Far from “dropout factories” the vast majority of entering students at OU and WSU either graduate or are still in school.
Judgments about student success must start with complete data. Anything less isn’t good enough.