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This is the third report of the performance of schools and colleges accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT) prepared by the Center on Education and Training for Employment of The Ohio State University. This report updates a previous report by adding an additional school year of data. The five years of cross-sectional data are based on the total number of students who graduated, withdrew, and obtained employment during the school year. These we refer to as the annual total data.
This report differs from its two predecessors in that it also presents new longitudinal data on program completion and placement in related employment for defined groups of students. These we refer to as the cohort data. Cohorts are groups of students who during the 1994 school year would have had time periods one and one-half times the scheduled lengths of their programs in which to complete them. The results from students who met the cohort definition during the 1994 school year are presented.
The most recent information on default rates on Stafford loans, as calculated by the US Department of Education, was used as an additional outcome measure.
In the annual total data, almost two-thirds (63 to 65 percent) of the full-time students leaving the accredited schools and colleges graduated. About one-fifth (20 to 22 percent) of the students enrolled each year withdrew without completing their programs. A consistent three-fourths of graduates who were available for employment obtained jobs related to the skills they had studied.
For part-time students, the graduation and training-related employment rates were 10 to 12 percentage points lower than the rates for full-time students. Withdrawal rates for part-time students were 1 to 2 percentage points higher than the rates for full-time students. The default rates on Stafford loans for the students who had left the schools two years prior to the year analyzed fluctuated around 25 percent.
The cohort data for the 1994 school year yielded outcomes higher than those from the annual total data for all three outcomes. The cohort measure comparable to the graduation rate is percentage trained, and that was 70 percent, 6 percentage points higher than the annual total figure. Part of the reason the cohort figure is higher is that those who withdrew for related employment are included as completing their programs.
The percentage placed in related employment in the cohort data is 82 percent, five points higher than the annual total results. Here again part of the higher figure is due to those who withdrew for related employment.
The biggest difference between the annual total and cohort data is with regard to withdrawal. The annual total data estimated withdrawal at a fairly constant 20 to 22 percent. In the cohort data, the rate in 1994 was 30 percent. We think the higher cohort figure is due to a more detailed tracking of those who entered programs in one school year, did not complete their programs that year, and did not return the next year. The longitudinal nature of the cohort data yields a more careful counting of such students.
Both the annual total and cohort outcome measures were related to 39 measures of the characteristics of the students and the schools, using multiple regression analysis. This analysis determines the net, independent effect of each school characteristic on the outcomes, holding the effect of all the other characteristics constant. The school characteristics listed below were found to have consistent, statistically significant relationships with school performance in both the annual total and cohort data. Most of these relationships, however, were found for full-time enrollments. The outcomes for part-time enrollment have fewer systematic relationships with school characteristics.
The cumulative effect of these characteristics can be quite substantial. A main campus school with an enrollment of 600 or less that had few Pell recipients, low turnover of faculty, and offering shorter programs could be expected to have a graduation rate 20 to 30 points higher than a branch campus school with an enrollment over 600, the average percentage of Pell recipients, and longer programs. The percentage of Pell grant recipients, ATB students, and faculty turnover could be used as monitoring signals to identify schools that are more likely to have problems with retention and graduation, and default.
Comparisons of these findings with available studies of postsecondary technical training imply that ACCSCT schools and colleges graduate a higher percentage of their students than comparable institutions.
Accreditation indicates that educational institutions meet established standards of quality with regard to their facilities, faculty, curriculum, and instruction. After initial accreditation, the performance of institutions must be monitored to ensure that they continue to meet the standards.
One of the methods used by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT) to monitor the performance of the institutions it accredits are annual reports. These reports provide a summary of the characteristics of the institutions and their operations for each school year.
The annual reports filed with the Commission for the past five school years (July 1989 through June 1994) are the basis for this report. The Center on Education and Training for Employment of The Ohio State University analyzed the data from the annual reports. These analyses identified several characteristics of the accredited schools and colleges that are consistently related to their performance. Performance was measured by these three rates:
The ways in which these rates were calculated are presented at the end of the report in Technical Notes. In addition to these rates, the analyses examined the default rate on Stafford loans for students who had left the accredited schools and colleges two years prior to the year of the annual report.
For the 1994 school year, in addition to the annual reports, the Commission collected data on cohorts of students. Cohorts were defined as students who had started their programs at a point where during the 1994 school year they would have had one and one-half times the scheduled lengths of their programs in which to complete them. Further discussion of the cohort definition is presented in Technical Notes.
The statistical technique of multiple regression analysis was used to relate the measures of school performance to characteristics such as total enrollment, percentage of students receiving financial aid, and average length of programs. This technique estimated the unique relationship of each of the characteristics for which we had measures to the four indicators of school performance.
It is important to note that this analysis shows only relationships, not cause and effect. Program length, for example, has a substantial relationship with graduation: schools with shorter programs graduate more of their students than schools with longer programs. It is not program length, however, that causes students to withdraw. Program length merely reflects the longer time period during which factors such as costs, alternative opportunities, and illness impact student decisions to discontinue their studies.
This report has five main sections. The first describes the ACCSCT schools and colleges, the second presents their performance, as indicated by the four outcome measures, during the past five years.
The third section summarizes the results of the multiple regression analysis. This section emphasizes those characteristics that have been found to have statistically significant relationships with school performance for three or more of the five years for which we have data. The fourth section compares the outcome measures from the annual total data to similar, but not identical, measures for students who met the cohort definition during the 1994 school year. The fifth main section compares the findings for ACCSCT schools and colleges to studies of similar postsecondary institutions.
ACCSCT Schools and Colleges
For the 1994 school year, 873 schools and colleges with full-time enrollments filed annual reports with ACCSCT. This is a drop of almost 200 from the peak of 1,062 that filed reports in 1991. Less than half as many schools and colleges reported part-time enrollments. Figure 1 shows the trends in number of schools reporting full-time and part-time enrollment for the five school years.
Figure 1. Number of schools and colleges reporting full-time and part-time enrollment
Figure 2 presents the trends in average full- and part-time enrollments during the five years. Prior to 1994, the average full-time enrollment had been quite steady. In 1994, it dropped 10 percent. Parttime enrollment had experienced an even larger percentage drop in 1993, but the 1994 average was almost identical to 1993. Total full-time enrollment in 1994 was 390,269 and part-time enrollment was 36,760.
Figure 2 also shows the average number of full-time equivalent instructors for the five years. This figure has varied very little. Because the number of students has dropped, the ratio of students to faculty was the lowest in 1994 of all the five years.
Figure 2. Average full-time and part-time enrollments and average number
The trends in four selected characteristics of ACCSCT schools and colleges are displayed in Figure 3. The top line indicates that over three-fourths of the reporting institutions are the main campuses. The line second from the top shows that half of the institutions have enrollments of 300 or less. The percentage of schools of this size has declined over the five years.