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APLU Initiative Spotlight: Student Achievement Measure

The Student Achievement Measure (SAM) is a voluntary alternative to the federal graduation rate that tracks student movement across postsecondary institutions to provide a more complete picture of undergraduate student progress and completion within the higher education system. The measure helps count some of the student progress omitted from the federal graduation rate, which is limited to tracking the completion of first-time, full-time students at one institution.

Nationally, more than one in five students who complete a degree do so at an institution other than the one where they started, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Yet the typical method for calculating graduation rates, as stipulated by federal legislation, counts only those students who enroll full-time and then start and finish at their first college or university. SAM better accounts for the success of these students.

SAM also has an easy-to-navigate website with three options for measuring student progress: the SAM Associate/Certificate Model, the SAM Bachelor’s Model, and a newer model designed to report outcomes for students who complete more than one undergraduate degree, and options for reporting outcomes for additional groups of students – including Pell Grant recipients, students receiving veterans’ benefits, and students of color.

SAM is a collaborative effort of the six national presidential higher education associations, including APLU. Over 600 colleges and universities from all 50 states are already participating in the project and the SAM website is currently tracking the progress and completion of 500,000 more students than the federal graduation rate.

Learn more about SAM and how your institution can join the effort.

  • Accountability & Transparency

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