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Completion Arch

Web-based tool delivers robust data on community college enrollment and success

Each year, millions of students across the United States start community college. Tracking what happens to them next can be incredibly challenging. Because the goals of these students vary greatly, measuring success isn’t as simple as counting how many finish a class, earn degrees, or transfer to other schools.

The most widely available sources of data on student outcomes at community college don’t come close to telling the whole story of how students fare in these institutions. This leaves gaps in what community college leaders know about their schools’ performance, as well as in how policymakers, researchers, and the general public understand the value of community colleges.

Community colleges are the largest sector within our postsecondary education system, representing 44 percent of all undergraduates. At a time when community colleges are gaining national attention, including proposals to make them tuition-free, the entire country stands to benefit from a better information source on the status of these schools and their students.

Providing Robust Data on Community College Enrollment and Outcomes

The Completion Arch is a web-based tool that provides national- and state-level data that describe the progress and success of community college students. Launched in 2014, the Completion Arch seeks to fill the void, providing better data and a better framework for explaining students’ progress through community college from enrollment to employment.

Initial development was funded by the College Board and work continues with internal RTI funding.

As challenging as it is to gather data on community colleges, analyzing that data also requires special expertise. Our strength lies in the ability of our experts in education and workforce development to understand the data and put it into context. The Completion Arch website contains detailed explanations of each measure, as well as research briefs that explain the background and underlying policy context of key areas such as enrollment, transfer, and workforce preparation.

Vital Data for Institutions, Policymakers, and Foundations Striving to Improve Community-College Education

The Completion Arch is finding a diverse audience. Users appreciate the interim progress measures—key milestones and momentum behavior. For example, not only can users learn that a majority of students participate in developmental education, the Completion Arch also presents information about their interim progress, such as the percent who compete their first developmental education course, a sequence of courses, and enrollment in a college-level course.

The Completion Arch is the most extensive, data-rich, web-based resource of its kind. Future goals include continually updating the data and further raising awareness among key stakeholders, including students and their families. Over time, we expect the Completion Arch to become even more vital to institutions, states, policymakers, and foundations striving to improve community-college education.