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U Maryland Releases Grad Rates Through SAM Tracking System

A Web site that displays graduation rates has added the University of Maryland College Park to its inaugural roster. The institution, which has 37,000 students, has joined the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), which tracks the graduation rates of students who start and finish at their first institutions as well as those who move among colleges.

Currently, about 435 institutions have signed up to participate in the service; however, not all of those schools have made their information publicly available on SAM.

Proponents of the service consider the data important because it provides a more complete picture of student progress and graduation rates. According to research by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more than 20 percent of students who complete a degree do so at an institution other than the one where they first enrolled. According to the service, the site is tracking about half a million students more than other graduation rate tracking methodologies.

For example, at U Maryland the current six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students is 84 percent. That fate of the remaining 16 percent would have been a mystery prior to the use of SAM. Now, SAM data accounts for a further 11 percent of students who have enrolled and/or graduated at another institution. Only five percent have a status that is currently unknown.

"So many students who don't fit the old, traditional model of starting and finishing their coursework at the same institution over two or four years are being lost in the current federal graduation rate," said SAM Executive Director Christine Keller. "That growing subgroup of students can now be tracked with SAM, which further strengthens the transparency efforts of the University of Maryland and other institutions across the country who are participating in this innovative effort."

"The Student Achievement Measure is a powerful tool that enables the [university] to measure the graduation rates of hundreds of our students who may start or finish at other institutions," explained Steve Fetter, associate provost for academic affairs. "It's our responsibility to provide students and the public with clear, accurate information about the progress and success of our student body. We're proud to be at the forefront of this national effort."

SAM is a collaboration of six national higher education associations, including the American Associations of Community Colleges and State Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Funding came from two of those organizations as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie.

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