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Time Remains Significant Barrier to Student Success; New Data Indicate Learners Lack Clear Pathways to Credentials

New Ad Astra benchmarking report finds course scheduling remains a significant barrier in pathway to completion; credit hour progress remains a critical piece of college completion, and outlines strategies for students to pursue clear paths to success. 

OVERLAND PARK, Kan., Feb. 20, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — As institutions of higher education continue to grapple with how best to align structures to increasingly complicated student needs and schedules, new data released today from Ad Astra sheds light on the significance of course schedules and pathways in a student’s likelihood to persist and graduate. The report, “A Benchmark Report: Analysis of the Relationship Between Scheduling Effectiveness, Student Progress, and Completion,” revealed part-time students who completed 11 or fewer credits per year had only a 7% likelihood of graduating, while their peers who were taking 18 to 23 credits had a 50% chance of completing. The report also uncovered significant barriers in pathways to credentials, creating barriers for learners as they seek to complete their credential within the expected time frame. 

“It’s been more than ten years since Stan Jones, the founder of Complete College America, famously put the phrase ‘time is an enemy of completion’ into America’s postsecondary lexicon. The report findings show that this problem continues to plague students. Course schedules inadvertently block students’ access to the courses they need to graduate during the times and via the modalities that work in their busy lives,” said Tom Shaver, founder and CEO of Ad Astra. “Collectively, these findings highlight a real opportunity for higher education leaders to come together and tackle one of the biggest barriers to student success.”

Data from the survey show that continued, consistent progress toward completion is critical to student success, yet schedules that provide clear paths to degree or credential completion continue to be one of the biggest challenges for students. Key findings from the report include:

  • Greater clarity maximizes the benefits of flexibility. As institutions shifted to offer new, more accommodating pathways for students, they failed to ensure those pathways presented clear paths to completion. 71% of the completion paths offered were blocked (missing requirements), which meant that more than half (57%) of students in the study were unable to complete their degree without a significant detour in their academic journey.
  • Accelerated early support, accelerated long-term progress. Getting students to take one more course each academic term can greatly improve retention and completion rates. 27% of students analyzed in the study took a heavier course load during their academic careers (therefore moving to a higher progress band), compared to their first year.
  • Primetime compression. Faculty are increasingly teaching courses at overlapping times. The report found that the percentage of faculty teaching during core hours – between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. with slight variation – increased from 67% to 83% (over the past five years since the 2018 Bending the Curve Report), leaving students with fewer course options and campuses underutilizing their facilities.
  • Classes are increasingly underfilled and not used at capacity. The analysis found an underutilized course ratio of 45%, compared to 41% in the 2018 Bending the Curve Report, meaning that almost half of the courses have an enrollment ratio of less than 70%. Only 33% of the courses, today, have a balanced ratio between 70-95%, indicating waste and inefficiency in how courses are being offered.

“Colleges and universities have a real opportunity – and responsibility – to make the best use of students’ time. Greater flexibility in meeting students’ needs is critical, but flexibility without intentionality and clarity isn’t enough to help students be successful,” said Charles Ansell, Vice President for Research, Policy and Advocacy at Complete College America, who authored the foreword to the report. “This new report gives institutional leaders data and best practices to help improve how their institutions understand and meet learner needs, and ultimately improve student outcomes over time.”

The report is based on 2023 benchmarking data from Ad Astra partners, representing over 1.3 million students, that have been aggregated to help institutions understand the relationship between students’ academic degree progress, retention, and completion. This report captured insights from two-year public, four-year public, and four-year private institutions across the country, representing all students, not just full-time/first-time.

Learn more about the report here.

About Ad Astra
Ad Astra is the trusted partner of over 550 colleges and universities committed to creating seamless pathways to timely completion. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, and established in 1996, Ad Astra provides intelligence based academic course scheduling and planning solutions that empower institutions to efficiently remove barriers to completion for students while also ensuring financial sustainability for partner institutions. Ad Astra currently holds a United States patent for its innovative method of determining student demand for academic courses. Last year, Ad Astra helped colleges and universities remove structural barriers that impact student progress for over 4.5 million students in the U.S.

Ad Astra was the 2018 recipient of the Complete College of America Seal of Approval for Structure. Learn more at aais.com and follow us @AdAstraIS or on LinkedIn


Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/time-remains-significant-barrier-to-student-success-new-data-indicate-learners-lack-clear-pathways-to-credentials-302062836.html
Images courtesy of https://pixabay.com

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