Romney, Hickenlooper, Barrasso Introduce Bill to More Accurately Measure Student Success at Community Colleges

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and John Barrasso (R-WY) today introduced the Graduation Reporting for Accuracy and Decision-Making (GRAD) Act, bipartisan legislation that would improve transparency and inform the decision-making of prospective students by ensuring the reporting of graduation rates accurately reflect the success of community colleges. Text of the legislation can be found here.

The Higher Education Act (HEA) requires the Department of Education to report institutions’ graduation rates for full-time, first-time students. Colleges report these numbers to the federal government. However, the current practice excludes millions of nontraditional students from being reflected in this data. The GRAD Act would modify existing reporting requirements to better reflect these diverse populations.

“Schools like Snow College and Salt Lake Community College have students enrolled from all walks of life—from the first in their family to go to college, to veterans, to single parents,” Senator Romney said. “Current reporting requirements fall short in reflecting community colleges’ unique make-up of students, and every year students who receive degrees are classified as ‘drop-outs’ by the federal government. Our bill will fix this problem and ensure that the government more accurately measures success at community colleges in Utah and across the country.”

“Not everyone attends college full-time nor finishes in four years. The GRAD Act will give us a more accurate picture of students who follow non-traditional pathways and how we can help further their education,” said Senator Hickenlooper.

“Wyoming is fortunate to have seven wonderful community colleges. They deserve to have all of their students, traditional or non-traditional, accurately accounted for in graduation rates,” Senator Barrasso said. “The GRAD Act will make sure prospective students have the most up-to-date information about graduation rates before choosing the best school for them.”

“Community colleges enthusiastically support the GRAD Act. This overdue legislation will update the Higher Education Act and help to provide a more accurate picture of community college student achievement. The current metrics are designed to reflect traditional college attendance patterns that community college students do not always follow. The GRAD Act also reflects community colleges’ own Voluntary Framework of Accountability metrics, which hundreds of institutions use to foster public accountability and institutional improvement. Higher education would be well served by enactment of this legislation.” — Walter G. Bumphus, Ph.D., President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges

“We support this bill and appreciate Senators Romney and Hickenlooper’s efforts to increase the quality and quantity of data that accurately captures college completions. Gathering and analyzing data on completions is crucial in allowing the Utah System of Higher Education and higher education nationwide to better support our students, regardless of the student’s personal circumstances or what their college path looks like. This legislation will help guide and facilitate our efforts to meet the needs of our students as they complete their education.” — David R. Woolstenhulme, Commissioner, Utah System of Higher Education

“It is more important than ever that students, parents, and policymakers have accurate and complete information about college completion rates. For too long the success of our community college students in completing their studies and earning credentials, certificates and degrees has been underreported. I applaud Senators Romney and Hickenlooper for sponsoring this critical legislation that will provide greater transparency and ensure that the reporting of graduation rates accurately reflects the achievements of community colleges and their students.” — Deneece G. Huftalin, Ph.D., President, Salt Lake Community College

“This is important legislation for community colleges. The way college completion is measured currently is insufficient and inaccurate to the facts on the ground as it relates to the types of students community colleges serve. Community colleges are the country’s best institutions in meeting the varied and diverse needs of non-traditional learners. Their lives simply do not conform to current measures of time-to-graduation which can lead to inappropriate comparisons with traditional-aged students. Using current reporting measures places community colleges at a disadvantage when learners look at institutional success rates to make enrollment decisions. This legislation contemplates measures that give a more nuanced and realistic view of how students at community colleges balance life and work and how they ultimately succeed.” — Bradley J. Cook, President, Snow College

“As open access institutions, Colorado’s community colleges serve a diverse group of students, including adult learners, working parents, employees and employers, caregivers, and others whose circumstances result in a longer road to completion. We fully support a 6-year graduation public reporting standard because it better reflects students’ lived reality and accurately captures our colleges’ transformative impact on students and their families.” — Dr. Joseph A Garcia, President, Colorado Community College System