What is the difference between credit and noncredit students?
Credit students are generally working toward a career/technical certificate or degree program, or are taking courses for transfer to another college or university. Developmental (or remedial) courses to improve college-readiness are counted as credit for purposes of reporting here, but they cannot be used to meet credit requirements for graduation.
Non-credit courses are commonly defined as “corporate” or “continuing education” courses. They are generally short-term and used for personal interest or career enhancement. Some non-credit courses allow students to earn continuing education units toward a professional license, industry certification or other evidence of coursework completion for personal or professional requirements. Occasionally, students are allowed to apply prior noncredit coursework to a credit certificate or degree.
How do you count credit students in terms of enrollment?
This is a very complex question that often causes great confusion within the college community. Let’s discuss credit enrollment first. The most common measure is “headcount”, which captures a student regardless of the number of hours they take in a given period of time. Whenever possible it is best to “unduplicate” headcounts, such as reporting the unique number of individuals taking classes in a single term or year. However, reports sometimes have to duplicate headcounts when trying to pull together in a single report multiple courses attempted by the same person.
At any college, enrollments are constantly changing as students drop or add classes. Thus, NC State has a long-standing practice of “freezing” enrollment on the fifteenth day following the start of the quarter for purposes of a census. This provides enough time to eliminate immediate withdrawals and count the remaining students by a variety of metrics. While most students are part-time, the colleges reports a “full-time enrollment” count to help users better understand total class hours being attempted. The college divides the total credit hours attempted by 15 per quarter or 45 over a year to create a “full-time enrollment” FTE count. The rationale is that these increments are the threshold for defining a fully-enrolled students, allowing for at least one quarter “off”.
How are non-credit students counted?
This process is much more straightforward based on headcounts only.
What is the time period for a “fiscal year” for purposes of annualized data?
In most cases or reporting, the fiscal year actually begins with summer quarter and ends with the subsequent spring quarter. So summer quarter 2010 would start the 2011 fiscal year. However, NC State is involved with a national student success initiative called “Achieving the Dream” which requires the capturing of data with the fiscal year starting in fall. So any reports linked to this initiative would reflect a fall to summer calendar. For purposes of non-credit students, the state of Ohio currently requires NC State to report data on a calendar year basis.
Why do you report specifically on first-time students?
National research shows a student’s first term is a key indicator on eventual success or failure in college. Many require academic remediation based on entrance assessments in math, reading or writing, the performance of whom NC State regularly tracks through its involvement in the National Achieving the Dream initiative (hyperlink to AtD reports on outcomes section). Further, tracking new students helps the college better determine project program enrollment, as well as determine various socioeconomic and geographic indicators to better serve new students.
Many of the majors, especially in health science, have “pre” breakouts. What does that mean?
Enrollment in certain programs (generally health science) is limited due to lack of capacity with instructors, lab space and/or clinical placement slots. These programs have special admissions procedures and students who have not been formally accepted but intend to apply are listed in the “pre” category while they complete their general education requirements.
How reliable are the majors being reported for the long-term? Why are there so many undeclared majors?
Certainly students sometimes switch majors, though those enrolled in special admission programs are less likely. Students have until their 24th credit hour is completed to declare a major. However, many undeclared students: are high school students in early college programs or students, students concurrently enrolled at another school who need to pick up a class, or someone looking to brush up job skills and not complete the program.
Why do some programs have such radical swings in enrollment, including 0?
Like any business, NC State has to adjust its services to market demand. Some programs are consolidated while others are retired. Numbers fall as the final students progress out. On the flip side, programs starting with zero are newer programs.
Why does the college so often report data in terms of “cohorts”, such as entering fall students?
It’s the most meaningful way to capture apples to apples data. This is true for comparing enrollment characteristics between, but especially true for reporting outcomes. In fact, through its Achieving the Dream work NC State has a very effective cohort methodology for tracking student progression through intermediate milestones, such as completing developmental coursework sequences and advancing to credit-bearing coursework
So does that mean that if a student doesn’t graduate within a certain amount of time, they haven’t succeeded?
No, especially in a community college. As mentioned, many credit students enroll just for a quick “brush-up” of job skills, while others pick up a course or two between experiences at other colleges. Students commonly transfer prior to reaching a degree, especially given flexible state policies such as Ohio’s Transfer Assurance Guides. In fact, Ohio is now recognizing rewarding community colleges through state funding based on intermediate milestones for developmental progression, retention and transfer. NC State has the ability to track the transfer activities of students on a cohort basis through reports from the National Student Clearinghouse, which links up nearly 90% of America’s colleges and universities.
Why is some data (e.g., high school graduation information, race/ethnicity, graduate/employer surveys, etc.) missing for certain students.
Students occasionally choose not to fill in certain questions on application or registration materials. The state of Ohio did recently receive a large federal grant to facilitate data transfer amongst the secondary (high school/GED) and post-secondary (college and adult workforce education) sectors, but this will take time to fully implement. Other data sets such as graduate/employer satisfaction rely on surveys, with which all colleges struggle for high response rates.
Given this occasional concern about survey reliance, is there concern with large-scale efforts such as the Community College Survey of Student Engagement and Survey of Entering Student Engagement?
No. CCSSE and SENSE have several advantages compared to institutionally-developed surveys. The large national sample provides norms and benchmarks to help colleges interpret their performance. The psychometric properties of the survey have been extensively tested to ensure that the instrument is statistically valid and reliable. Sampling has been centrally controlled so that institutions can be confident that the results generalize to their population of students and are comparable to results from other institutions. Through the use of correlation matrices, exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and multiple group analysis, five meaningful composite benchmark scores were developed.