Leading Indicators

Today’s public higher education leaders strive to improve student success in a complex academic and fiscal environment. They require efficient strategies that focus their efforts and provide quick feedback. Conventional graduation measures are too broad and arrive too late to inform decision making about programs and instruction that can improve graduation rates. Leading indicators are data on a set of proven factors that provide early signals of how well a student is progressing toward degree completion. The use of leading indicator data provides a viable alternative. 

Research demonstrates that meeting key academic milestones during the first year of college provides students with early momentum toward degree completion. Academic patterns — or leading indicators — of success reveal students’ probability of reaching these milestones and graduating on time. By analyzing data on completion of developmental coursework, credit accumulation, or other indicators, faculty and administrators have sufficient time to implement change that will improve graduation outcomes.

Leading indicators are powerful diagnostics to place in the hands of higher education leaders. They statistically improve the predicted probabilities of college completion beyond student background characteristics. Most important, front-line faculty and campus staff can use leading indicator analysis to focus limited resources on interventions that work.

In 2009, a set of A2S systems and campuses began applying a leading indicators framework to their student retention efforts, helping to ensure that more low-income students and students of color succeed in college.

For details about leading indicators, contact Michael Dannenberg.