Image of a laptop with a data visualization on it

At MSU, we believe that all admitted students have the ability to learn, persist, and succeed. We are committed to creating equitable pathways to enable students to do so. We track our progress using data, and present summaries here.

At MSU, we believe that all admitted students have the ability to learn, persist, and succeed. We are committed to creating equitable pathways to enable students to do so. In order to track our progress, we need data measuring different aspects of student learning, persistence, and success. In this post, I introduce a new series of one-page summaries produced by Institutional Studies (IS), a part of the MSU Office of Planning and Budgets, summarizing important aspects of our performance in helping students succeed. 

To access the one-page summaries, you'll be asked to input an MSU faculty/staff NetID.

Graduation Rates: One measure of college performance discussed is the “graduation rate”, and the most common measure discussed nationally is the proportion of incoming first-year students who obtain a degree from that institution within six years of entering. A one-page summary of MSU six-year graduation rates may be found here, and reveals that MSU’s six-year rate over the last several years has been steady between 77% and 79%. By comparison, the average rate for all four-year public colleges and universities during this same period is 59%.

Persistence Rates: In order to graduate, entering students must stay enrolled MSU. In particular, those entering must return for a second year, a quantity known as the “persistence rate”. Nationally, almost half of the students who leave a university, do so before returning for a second year. A one-page summary of the MSU persistence rate can be found here, and shows that 91% of students who entered in the Fall of 2016 returned to MSU in the Fall of 2017. By comparison, comparable national persistence rates (see the full-time “retained student” rate for public four-year colleges in figure four here) were just under 80%.

Probation Rates: Student performance in their first semester in college, as measured by their first-term grade point average (GPA), is another indicator we study. Those students whose first-semester GPA is below a 2.0 (recall that MSU’s grading scale runs from 0.0 to 4.0) are placed on “academic probation”. Historically, those placed on academic probation based on their performance in their first semester at MSU are less likely to persist and to graduate. A one-page summary of MSU’s Fall 2017 first-year student first-semester probation rate is given here, and shows that this rate has dropped over the last several years from close to 10% to 7.5%.

 Credit Momentum: An undergraduate degree at MSU typically requires the completion of 120 credits. In order to complete 120 credits over four years, or eight semesters, students need to complete on average 15 credits per semester. While a 15 credit schedule is not necessarily appropriate for all students in all semesters, in general taking 14-16 credits a semester and finishing 30 credits per year is strongly correlated with success in college. A one-page summary of the number of credits taken by entering first-year students during the first semester can be found here. The data reveals that there has been a strong response to our “Go Green, Go 15” campaign, with the number of students registering for 15 or more credits in their first semester at MSU rising from 28% to 42% with no reduction in grades. 

The data here illuminate both success of MSU and areas where we need to make more progress. For example, while the graduation rate of students who identify as African American or Black saw a six percentage point increase in their graduation rate, from 59% for the 2016 cohort to 65% for the 2017 cohort, this rate still trails that of all students by 14 percentage points. MSU is committed to further closing these “opportunity gaps,” and to increase graduation rates of the subgroups we are not serving as well as we should.

These one-page summaries are just the beginning of our data collection and dissemination efforts, with additional one-pagers being developed. As these become available, we will post them for the community to review. Additional reports which disaggregate information for individual colleges, departments, residence halls, etc., are also being developed to help these units support the success of their students.

Finally, while data is important, ultimately what matters is using that data to ask questions and investigate how MSU can improve student learning and success. Data is only the starting point, and MSU students benefit only when the data is used by faculty and staff to improve the environments that we construct for students and how we educate them.


Feedback and suggestions, especially from the MSU community, welcome: email sekhar@msu.edu.

R. Sekhar Chivukula is the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Michigan State University.