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NCES National Center for Education Statistics
Graduation Rates for 2-year institutions
Click one of the following questions to view the answer.
General
1) My institution has programs that operate on both a term basis AND a clock hour (continuing enrollment) basis. How do I choose which cohort to use for Graduation Rates (GR) reporting?
3) My institution does not have any information on the cohort you are requesting. Do I have to do anything this year?
4) When can I revise or adjust my cohort?
5) Do I need to track students every term?
Cohort
1) What is a "first-time" student?
2) My institution has a very small cohort, sometimes only 4 or 5 students. Do I need to complete the GR survey?
3) How do I count a student who started in my original cohort, transferred to another institution (for which I have a confirmation of transfer), and then returned to my institution and is still enrolled?
4) Where do I place transfers INTO my institution?
5) How do I report students who are taking ESL (English as a Second Language) or developmental courses?
6) Are students in remedial courses included in the cohort?
7) If a student took only remedial courses last year and applies as a full-time degree/certificate-seeking student this fall, can I count the student as "first-time"?
8) What about non-credit enrollment, or students taking CEUs?
9) Are non-degree/certificate-seekers included?
10) How do I treat new entrants that receive credit for life experience?
11) Do I count students who have acquired credits through distance learning or correspondence as "first-time"?
12) How do I report students studying in consortium agreements?
13) Many of our students take courses during the summer at other schools; should these be considered transfers-out?
14) My initial cohort includes all full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled as of October 15 - the same as on my IPEDS Fall Enrollment survey. Now what happens to: stop outs, drop outs, students who enroll part-time after the first semester, or students who change programs?
17) If a student in my cohort obtains two undergraduate level awards (e.g., certificate in cosmetology and an AA) within the 3-year period, can I count both completions?
Normal Time and Calculation of 150% of Normal Time
1) How do I calculate 150% of normal time to completion?
2) How do I report a student who has switched programs since entering the cohort?
3) How do I calculate 150% for students who stop out, or drop out, and then return and complete the program?
4) According to the Technical Amendment to the SRK, I can count as completers within 150% of normal time students who complete their program through August 31 of the 6th year; but what if the student does not receive the degree until our December graduation? Does this mean I cannot count them as completers?
Transfers-Out
1) Does my institution need to report transfers-out?
2) What kind of verification must I have to report a student as a transfer-out?
3) My school does not track transfers-out, and our limited budget does not allow us to set up a system to do so. Am I still in compliance with the requirements of the Student Right-to-Know Act, and am I still responsive to the GR survey, if I don’t report transfers-out?
Other
1) Exactly what must be disclosed in order to be in compliance with the Student Right-to-Know Act?
2) Will completing the IPEDS Graduation Rates survey satisfy all of my requirements for the Student Right-to-Know Act?
4) The number of students who could be considered for the adjustments to the cohort (allowable exclusions) at my institution is very small. Do I need to track these "leavers"?
9) What is a "transfer-preparatory program"?
10) My school enrolls students on a monthly basis, so we will be using a full-year cohort. If my longest program is 9 months, how do I calculate 150% of normal time; and which cohort should I use?
11) Can I report students as completers if they left the institution to get a job in their field of study, but did not finish their program?
12) There is a provision for excluding students who leave the institution to join the Armed Forces. Is there a similar provision for excluding students who are already in the military but are transferred to another duty station?
Pell Grants/Subsidized Direct Loans
1) Who is considered a "recipient" of a Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan?
2) If a student received their Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan after their first year at the institution (July 1 - June 30), would they be counted as part of these subgroups?
3) If a student receives and uses their Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan within their first year at the institution (July 1 - June 30), do they have to continue to receive this aid throughout their time at the institution to be counted as part of these subgroups?
Answers:
General
1) My institution has programs that operate on both a term basis AND a clock hour (continuing enrollment) basis. How do I choose which cohort to use for Graduation Rates (GR) reporting?
 

The Student Right-to-Know legislation states that institutions that offer a predominant number of programs based on a term basis (semester, quarter, or trimester) must calculate graduation and transfer-out rates using a fall cohort; otherwise, you must use a full-year cohort. The cohort used to report your institution's GR data is predetermined based on your response to the Calendar System question on the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics Header survey component. 

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3) My institution does not have any information on the cohort you are requesting. Do I have to do anything this year?
  Student Right-to-Know legislation states that graduation rates reporting is mandatory for institutions that enrolled full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students during the relevant cohort year. If you did not enroll this type of student, or your institution was not in operation during the relevant cohort year, please report this information on the Institutional Characteristics Header survey component.
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4) When can I revise or adjust my cohort?
  There is a difference between revising and adjusting a cohort. Revising a cohort means modifying the cohort data to reflect better information that has become available since the cohort was first reported in the relevant Fall Enrollment survey (e.g., you may now have more complete racial/ethnic information on the cohort). Fall cohorts may be revised by entering new data in the Revised cohort column on the data collection screen. Adjusting a cohort means subtracting any allowable exclusions from the revised cohort to establish a denominator for graduation rate calculation. Both fall and full-year cohorts are adjusted for you on the worksheet screens when calculating graduation and transfer-out rates.
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5) Do I need to track students every term?
  No. You can set up your system to identify your cohort upon entry, and then, at the end of 150% of normal time to complete all requirements of the longest program, look back to see the status of those in the cohort. You will need to know when students in the cohort completed, but it is not necessary to compare or track these students from term-to-term.
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Cohort
1) What is a "first-time" student?
  According to the IPEDS Glossary, a first-time student is "A student who has no prior postsecondary experience attending any institution for the first time at the undergraduate level." This means that the student is first-time in terms of postsecondary education (or the student is not known to have attended another postsecondary institution). There are two exceptions: (1) students who attended any institution for the first time the summer prior to entering your institution in the fall term are to be counted as "first-time", as are (2) students who entered with advanced standing (college credits earned before graduation from high school).
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2) My institution has a very small cohort, sometimes only 4 or 5 students. Do I need to complete the GR survey?
  Yes. You must report the data to NCES regardless of the cohort size. See the questions related to disclosure requirements under Other below for additional information.
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3) How do I count a student who started in my original cohort, transferred to another institution (for which I have a confirmation of transfer), and then returned to my institution and is still enrolled?
  You should report the student as a transfer-out. For the purposes of the full-time, first-time cohort used for IPEDS graduation rates reporting, this action closes out their status in the cohort. Upon re-enrolling at your institution, the student would then be included in a subsequent, non-first-time cohort not collected through the IPEDS GR survey.   
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4) Where do I place transfers INTO my institution?
  The IPEDS GR survey does NOT collect information on transfers in. THESE STUDENTS SHOULD NOT BE INCLUDED IN ANY GR COHORT.
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5) How do I report students who are taking ESL (English as a Second Language) or developmental courses?
  These students are not included in the cohort if their courses are not part of a program of study that leads to a degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award, and if they are not eligible for Title IV federal financial aid.
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6) Are students in remedial courses included in the cohort?
  Use the same reasoning here that you use to determine who to report as degree/certificate-seeking in the IPEDS Fall Enrollment survey. If a student is degree/certificate-seeking for the purposes of qualifying for student financial aid, then they must be included in the GR cohort.
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7) If a student took only remedial courses last year and applies as a full-time degree/certificate-seeking student this fall, can I count the student as "first-time"?
  No. The student does not qualify as "first-time" because they are known to have previously attended a postsecondary institution (yours or another school) even though they are entering with no credit.
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8) What about non-credit enrollment, or students taking CEUs?
  Neither should be included in the cohort for graduation rates reporting.
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9) Are non-degree/certificate-seekers included?
  Even though these students are enrolled for credit, if they are not seeking a degree/certificate, they should not be included in the cohort according to Student Right-to-Know regulations. Be sure to carefully review the definition of degree/certificate-seeking in the IPEDS Glossary.
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10) How do I treat new entrants that receive credit for life experience?
  If the student has never enrolled in a postsecondary institution, they should be counted as "first-time."
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11) Do I count students who have acquired credits through distance learning or correspondence as "first-time"?
  Since these students must have been previously enrolled in a postsecondary institution in order to obtain credit through correspondence or distance learning, they are not considered "first-time."
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12) How do I report students studying in consortium agreements?
  Use the same reasoning here that you use to determine who to report in the IPEDS Fall Enrollment survey. For additional information on this topic, please refer to the IPEDS Data Tip Sheet related to Reporting Students for Institutions in Consortia.
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13) Many of our students take courses during the summer at other schools; should these be considered transfers-out?
  No. Keep the students in the cohort since they return in the fall and continue their programs of study.
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14) My initial cohort includes all full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students enrolled as of October 15 - the same as on my IPEDS Fall Enrollment survey. Now what happens to: stop outs, drop outs, students who enroll part-time after the first semester, or students who change programs?
  It looks like your cohort is defined correctly. Remember YOUR COHORT NEVER CHANGES. Students who stop out or drop out do not leave the cohort. They remain in the count; and if they complete their most recent program within 150% of normal time they should be reported accordingly. Students who switch to part-time status or to another program are not given extra time to complete, nor are they removed from the cohort. Report their status as requested.
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17) If a student in my cohort obtains two undergraduate level awards (e.g., certificate in cosmetology and an AA) within the 3-year period, can I count both completions?
  No, you may only count one. NCES recommends that you report the highest degree attained, but it is your decision as to which one you prefer to report.
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Normal Time and Calculation of 150% of Normal Time
1) How do I calculate 150% of normal time to completion?
  In order to calculate this, we must first define "normal time to completion". IPEDS has adopted the definition developed by the Joint Commission on Accountability Reporting (JCAR) as a definition of normal time. As such,
"normal time to completion" is defined as "the amount of time necessary for a student to complete all requirements for a degree or certificate according to the institution’s catalog. This is typically 4 years (8 semesters or trimesters, or 12 quarters, excluding summer terms) for a bachelor’s degree in a standard term-based institution; 2 years (4 semesters or trimesters, or 6 quarters, excluding summer terms) for an associate’s degree in a standard term-based institution; and the various scheduled times for certificate programs." Let’s look at some examples:

Many bachelor’s degree programs are outlined as 4-year programs (8 semesters – typically fall and spring). Extending this to 150% (1.5 x 8) would be 12 semesters or through the end of the spring term of the sixth year.

Similarly, an associate’s degree program that is advertised as a 2-year program (6 quarters - fall, winter, and spring, with no scheduled summer quarter) would extend to 9 quarters (1.5 x 6) or through the end of the spring quarter of the third year.

However, the Technical Amendment to the Student Right-to-Know Act redefined the cohort year to allow you to count completers through August 31 of the summer following the sixth year of a 4-year program (or the third year of a 2-year program).

Certificate programs must be handled somewhat differently. If a 900 contact hour course is advertised as taking 30 weeks to complete, the calculation of 1.5 x 30 equals 45 weeks after the start date. If the student completes within that 45-week period, they are within 150% of normal time.
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2) How do I report a student who has switched programs since entering the cohort?
  If a student has switched programs, you will calculate 150% of normal time to completion based on his or her most recent program for reporting outcomes. However, the student's "clock" does not reset once they switch programs. He or she must still graduate, transfer, or qualify as an exclusion within 150% of normal time to completion starting from the date he or she first entered the cohort.
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3) How do I calculate 150% for students who stop out, or drop out, and then return and complete the program?
  There is no difference in the calculation. The 150% of normal time calculation should be applied as of the student's initial start date, and is the same regardless of stop-out time. Some students may stop out for a term or two and still complete within 150% of normal time.
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4) According to the Technical Amendment to the SRK, I can count as completers within 150% of normal time students who complete their program through August 31 of the 6th year; but what if the student does not receive the degree until our December graduation? Does this mean I cannot count them as completers?
  Technically you cannot count the completion until the degree has been conferred. If you "award" the degree upon completion of the program (i.e., an award date of, or prior to, August 31 is noted in the student’s record) and simply allow the student to "pick up" their degree at the December ceremony, then you should be able to count the student as having completed within 150% of normal time.
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Transfers-Out
1) Does my institution need to report transfers-out?
  The Student Right-to-Know legislation states that "An institution that determines that its mission includes providing substantial preparation for students to enroll in another eligible institution" must report transfers-out so that a transfer-out rate may be calculated for its full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students.  Students to be reported as transfers are those who have NOT completed a program or graduated, so they cannot be counted as completers, but have subsequently enrolled in any program of an eligible institution for which the insititution provided substantial preparation. If the institution does not have such a mission, reporting of transfers-out is optional.
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2) What kind of verification must I have to report a student as a transfer-out?
  None. All verification requirements were dropped from the regulations.
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3) My school does not track transfers-out, and our limited budget does not allow us to set up a system to do so. Am I still in compliance with the requirements of the Student Right-to-Know Act, and am I still responsive to the GR survey, if I don’t report transfers-out?
  As long as your institution does not include providing substantial preparation for students to enroll in another eligible institution as part of its mission, you do not need to set up a system to track transfers-out. However, if your institution does have such a mission, you must be able to track and report on transfers-out.  (Applicable to Graduation Rates and Graduation Rates 200 only; requirements for Outcome Measures are different. Please review the Outcome Measures requirements separately.)
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Other
1) Exactly what must be disclosed in order to be in compliance with the Student Right-to-Know Act?
  Student Right-to-Know Act regulations state that an institution must annually prepare the completion or graduation rates of its full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students; and for institutions that determine that their mission includes providing substantial preparation for students to enroll in another eligible institution, the transfer-out rate of these students. In calculating these rates, an institution must count any students who have completed or graduated by the end of the 12-month period ending August 31 during which 150% of the normal time for completion or graduation from their program has lapsed.
Therefore, at a minimum, you must report and disclose your graduation and transfer-out rates (as of August 31 of the prior year). The Secretary urges institutions to disclose as much additional information as warranted to help consumers understand institutional mission, etc. Thus you should consider disclosing additional rates as well, such as rates for part-time students and possibly rates 8 or 10 years out, if your students typically take longer to complete. 
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2) Will completing the IPEDS Graduation Rates survey satisfy all of my requirements for the Student Right-to-Know Act?
  NO! NO! and NO! The IPEDS GR survey provides institutions with instructions, definitions, and a format for calculating graduation rates and transfer-out rates. It also provides institutions with a methodology so that there is some level of consistency in the way the rates are calculated. However, the SRK requires disclosure of these rates to students and prospective students. In addition, for schools that offer athletically-related student aid there are additional disclosure and reporting requirements. By completing the GR survey, you will have the rates you need to disclose, but you still need to make them available. The GR survey statisfies the reporting requirements ONLY.
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4) The number of students who could be considered for the adjustments to the cohort (allowable exclusions) at my institution is very small. Do I need to track these "leavers"?
  No. The allowable exclusions are provided for those institutions that may have a significant number of students who require longer to (or cannot) complete their programs for the reasons stated.
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9) What is a "transfer-preparatory program"?
  This term is defined in 34 CFR Student Assistance General Provisions, Section 668.8(b)(1)(ii) as "the successful completion of at least a 2-year program that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor’s degree and qualifies a student for admission into the third year of a bachelor’s degree program." The Secretary considers this the equivalent of an associate’s degree, thus completers of transfer-preparatory programs (although they do not receive a "formal award") should be counted as completers.
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10) My school enrolls students on a monthly basis, so we will be using a full-year cohort. If my longest program is 9 months, how do I calculate 150% of normal time; and which cohort should I use?
  Let's look at this one step at a time. First, schools with programs of less than 4 years are to report on the 2015 cohort. Therefore, you should look at those students who entered your institution between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016. Next, assuming the latest possible enrollment date would be August 31, 2016, 150% of 9 months following this date would extend to October 15, 2017 (13 1/2 months later). In order to complete the IPEDS GR survey, the first status date following this is August 31, 2018 and the report is due during the Winter 2018-19 data collection. So you are on track for reporting this cohort.
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11) Can I report students as completers if they left the institution to get a job in their field of study, but did not finish their program?
  No, you may not report these students as completers since they left the institution prior to completing their program.
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12) There is a provision for excluding students who leave the institution to join the Armed Forces. Is there a similar provision for excluding students who are already in the military but are transferred to another duty station?
  No, there is no such provision.
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Pell Grants/Subsidized Direct Loans
1) Who is considered a "recipient" of a Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan?
  For the purposes of the GR component, a recipient of a Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan is a student who receives and uses that award (i.e., award is partially or fully disbursed) within their first year at the institution (July 1 - June 30).
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2) If a student received their Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan after their first year at the institution (July 1 - June 30), would they be counted as part of these subgroups?
  They would only be counted if they received and used their award within their first year at the institution (July 1 - June 30).  If they received and used it at any later time, they would not be part of these subgroups.  They would be part of the calculated row - "Did not receive either a Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan".
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3) If a student receives and uses their Pell Grant or Subsidized Direct Loan within their first year at the institution (July 1 - June 30), do they have to continue to receive this aid throughout their time at the institution to be counted as part of these subgroups?
  As long as the student receives and uses their aid within their first year at the institution (July 1 - June 30), they do not have to continue to be awarded that aid during their time at the institution to be counted as part of these subgroups.
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