IPEDS Outcome Measures: 150% Graduation Rates

Data as reflected in the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) Outcome Measures Reports. Numbers reflect total cohorts (both full- and part-time entering students, both Pell- and non-Pell eligible students, exclusive of “transfer-out” students). “150% Graduation Rate” reflects students who complete a traditional four-year baccalaureate degree within 6 years of starting.

2019-20 Outcomes

(Incoming cohort of 2011-2012)

Cohort Size = 40

Graduation Rate= 15%

2020-21 Outcomes

(Incoming cohort of 2012-2013)

Cohort Size = 60

Graduation Rate= 20%

2021-22 Outcomes

(Incoming Cohort of 2013-2014)

Cohort Size = 26

Graduation Rate = 19%

Employment Rates for Graduates of Professional Programs

Simmons College of Kentucky did not offer any professional programs (programs that prepare a student for any kind of professional licensure, like nursing, dental assisting, or teacher preparation) during the previous three reporting years, therefore employment placement rate reporting is not required of the College.


Table 1 presents our traditionally defined “first-time full-time fall-to-fall” retention rates and head counts for the years 2017 through 2021. The Fall 2020 retention rate of 72% reflected the result of concentrated efforts, especially on the part of the Student Affairs and Enrollment Management division, to improve retention at Simmons. It is noteworthy that we came close to our target retention rate of 75% in Fall 2020.

The decline in headcount and retention rates for 2021 is largely a reflection of the impact of the COVID pandemic on the College. 

Traditional Enrollment and Retention Counts (Table 1)

Table 2 (below) represents our overall retention rates, also factoring in those students that were part-time, non-traditional, returning, and transfer students as well as those covered by the traditional retention measure definition (“First-time, full-time, fall-to-fall”).  

Overall Fall-to-Fall Retention 2016/17 to 2020/21 (Table 2)

Table 3 offers yet another view of retention at Simmons, this time considering overall spring-to-following-fall retention. Taken together, these three measures of retention provide a more well-rounded picture of our situation here at Simmons. Taken together as a composite, while we still have important work to do in developing our retention efforts, we are recognizing some degree of success. The 2016 ABHE Statistical Report for Retention Rates among schools in the 3rd Quartile (Head counts between 190-354) shows a rate of 67.3% (See Evidence Document 7d2.1).

As the COVID pandemic passes and with the continuation of retention efforts initiated pre-pandemic, Simmons expects to be able to achieve 75% overall retention in the next two years.

Overall Spring-to-Fall Retention 2016-2021 (Table 3)

Tables 4 (below) begins to address issues of persistence-to-degree and completion. Our benchmark for graduation / completion rates is 52.4% and comes from the 2016 ABHE Annual Statistical Report for 3rd quartile headcount colleges like Simmons. Our actual completion rate falls significantly below that standard.

Simmons has long been aware of its challenges regarding completion. A study from 2015 showed that the average Simmons student at that time was taking fewer than 7 credit hours a semester (See Evidence Document 7d2.2), less than half the load recommended to optimize one’s likelihood of completion. The same study showed that more than half of our student worked at least 35 hours a week and were first generation students. Many were living at or below the poverty level; one in five had been the victim of domestic violence; almost the same proportion had experienced homelessness. Many lived with significant health issues. In 2021, Simmons’ student body is younger and takes more credit hours per semester, but as an institution we still serve a community struggling with multiple systemic issues. 

In response to these issues, a Retention Committee was first established in Fall 2016 (See Evidence Documents 7d2.4 and 7d2.5). Particular attention was paid to the student experience and opportunities for academic remediation and tutoring. Since then the Student Affairs / Enrollment Management department has significantly expanded its mission, including a wider variety of academic and social supports.

Simmons is actively committed to improving our completion rate, as evidenced by our use of high-impact educational practices like first-year seminars, service learning, internships, and capstone courses. Simmons students are typically academically under-prepared and bring with them a variety of work / life / school balance issues that persist throughout their academic careers. While many institutions (rightfully) invest heavily in first-year fall-to-fall retention, believing that once students make the adjustment to college, they will find the remaining years to be “clear sailing,” many Simmons students find themselves facing a deliberate and calculated decision every semester about whether or not they can continue their education. 

To stay on top of these concerns, the Student Affairs / Enrollment Management office instituted a series of “Five-Question Surveys” through the Fall semester 2020. Administered via text notification, the surveys (See Evidence Document 7d2.3) included:

  • Student’s financial situation
  • Food insecurity
  • Housing insecurity / homelessness
  • Student loans
  • Work / School balance (Parts 1 & 2)
  • Academic goals
  • Personal financial management

One very positive outcome of these surveys was the expansion of the Simmons Food and Necessities Pantry, established with the cooperation of local retailers. Students at Simmons are able to receive grocery items as well as schools supplies and an assortment of clothing at no cost. 

Table 4 (above) is also helpful to illustrate the importance of retention and completion from purely a financial perspective. Using the percentages from column 3 above, with our current tuition of $8000 per semester and an enrollment of 200, the current rates of student attrition amount to $7,040,000 in lost tuition revenue over a four-year span, or a loss of $1,760,000 in potential revenue each year.

This provides a strong financial incentive to keep existing students engaged and progressing towards their educational goals.

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