Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of the six regionally accrediting bodies in the nation, will begin requiring colleges in California, Hawaii, Alaska and the U.S. Pacific Islands to track the graduation and retention rates of nontraditional, adult students.
The new requirement, which was implemented at WASC’s June meeting, makes the commission the first accreditor in the nation to track adult students. The lack of a tracking requirement for adult students has led to 77% of colleges failing to monitor completion rates for non-traditional students,reports a recent joint survey by Inside Track and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association Center for Research and Consulting, and only 16% of colleges knowing why adult students fail to complete a degree.
Jill Ferguson, WASC’s Director of Organizational Change, explained that the decision to require schools to monitor adult students is part of a long-term goal to improve the type of data the commission collects and redesign the accreditation process in order to increase accountability and transparency.
Ferguson went on to state that the WASC worked with the California Association for Institutional Research to create a series of new templates that will get farther into demographic data and look at the one-year retention rate, as well as the four-, six-, and eight-year graduation rates for all of an institution’s student—whether they are traditional or non-traditional. “It will take our information far beyond what the federal government requires,” said Ferguson.
The non-traditional tracking requirement will be implemented as a pilot program at eight institutions this fall, by the end of the spring semester all of WASC’s 161 four-year colleges and universities. Ferguson said that because of WASC’s reporting schedule, it will take three years before the data is fully collected and a report analyzing the information can be issued.
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