The Grade File: Student Progression / Retention

This corner of the internet is about student progression at Shawnee State University. It also highlights several different conditions that influence the way different groups of students progress. Groups may include gender, ethnicity, financial data, standardized test scores, class rank, geography, and others. We have a positive story to tell about our students at an open-access university. Two primary ways to look at progression are retention and persistence.

Retention is the measure of the number of students that attended in the fall of one year and were still enrolled the next fall. The measurement does care about progression; a first-time freshman might be retained, but not be a sophomore. A good measure is how many students are retained and moving through our courses β€œon time.”

A measure of the rate at which students persist in their educational program at an institution, expressed as a percentage. For four-year institutions, this is the percentage of first-time bachelors (or equivalent) degree-seeking undergraduates from the previous fall who are again enrolled in the current fall. For all other institutions this is the percentage of first-time degree/certificate-seeking students from the previous fall who either re-enrolled or successfully completed their program by the current fall.
— IPEDs Glossary

Persistence is the measure of term to term attendance. The number of students that attended a fall term and were enrolled in a subsequent term "persisted." A student is retained once but persists many times, hopefully until they graduate. At SSU, you can even persist after graduation depending on the type of degree.


Many of the charts in this section will use different types of cohort analysis, how do student populations change during a period of time. Time is a variable. This variable can be limiting if we want to check the demographics of students in certain conditions. One group are students that spent more than one year as a senior. If a student was a senior the first or last year of the file and were categorized as a "one time senior," they may skew the results. How is that possible? It is possible because they may have been a fourth year senior, but we can only see the last year, the first year of this file. The opposite situation of a "one time scenario" in the last year of the file may eventually be a third-year senior at some point in the future: not a dealbreaker, just something to be aware of during the review process.

The cohort analysis, regardless of the time limitation, is an excellent way to identify trends. The graduation rate and the group of first-time freshmen it measures is cohort analysis.

Total Enrollment

This tabbed workbook allows you to compare and contrast without scrolling a webpage (neat). This workbook uses a cohort model for two different groups, new students and all students.

New students are first-time freshmen and transfers. All students are all students. This is a fall to fall comparison. Each group represented by the color blue.

The top row is the total number of students. The bottom row is the percent of the total population this cohort represents.

In the new student file, we can see some students were around before the named year. They represent a very small number. Likewise, we can see how they represent a smaller and smaller percentage of the total population.

The total population file is more interesting. The entire population is the cohort. We lose our population for a variety of reasons. Some students leave while others graduate and leave. Either way, they are not here.

Strangely, we typically keep almost the exact same percent of the population the subsequent year.

In Fall 2014, 58.12% came back the next year. In Fall 2017 that number was 61.81%. Falls 2015 and 2016 are between those values.

This a reason we need more students, even though the percentages are very similar, the total numbers decline. It is like a ball of a yarn that unravels over time.

Basic Tabbed Student Progression Grade File

This tabbed workbook was generated in Fall 2018. There are two things that need to be updated in a newer version.

1. There were about two dozen first-time freshmen immediately after the 15th day of the term. The number of FFs is closer to the official census number, but as the grade file shows, not the total curricular output.

2. The Fall 2018 graduates are not included in the graduate field.

However, this is a valuable chart. There are several "sets" of students. If a condition has been met the population in "In" the set. If not they are "Out".

There are several groups for first-time freshmen. The chart shows how the number of students decreases relative to the cohort. This chart only shows students as undergraduate degree-seeking students, therefore students that turned into graduate students or students that were working on college credit in high school are will not be shown in those conditions. This looks at the total (full and part-time) first-time freshmen cohort during their undergraduate degree-seeking time at SSU.

The top chart is the number and percent decrease relative to the first year of the cohort. The bottom chart shows what that cohort was in the subsequent years.

We want to retain students but we also want them to move to the next level. If we retain more students and they are sophomores that is excellent.

As a random aside, but maybe not, there are groups of students based on how many times they changed their majors. Keep in mind a student that recently enrolled has not had as many opportunities to change majors.