The Value of a More Complete Metric: The SAM Success & Progress Rate

In light of the media coverage at the national, state, and local levels on increasing degree attainment and closing student achievement gaps, the VSA Team offers additional details on the SAM Success and Progress rate.  

It is essential to have robust measures that accurately reflect student outcomes in order to implement changes in support of student success on campus. The Success and Progress rate is one such measurement tool.  

To review, the Success and Progress rate provides a comprehensive method for tracking students across institutions and sectors - in contrast to the federal graduation rate, which is limited to tracking the completion of first-time, full-time students at one institution. 

The Success and Progress rate reports student outcomes in four categories using data from the National Student Clearinghouse: 
  • Graduated from original institution 
  • Transferred and Graduated from another institution 
  • Enrolled at the original institution
  • Transferred and Enrolled at another institution

The sample graph below (using data from an actual university) demonstrates how powerful it can be to have a complete picture of student outcomes.   The federal graduation rate would show that 61% of students graduated after 6 years but provide no additional information on the 49% of students that did not graduate.  The Success and Progress rate shows that, in addition to the 61% who graduated, 28% of the students have either graduated from another institution or are still enrolled.  This more detailed information can have a substantial impact on determining what strategies should be implemented on a campus to improve student outcomes. It is no longer assumed the 49% of students who did not graduate within 6 years have “dropped out.”


Visit the SAM website – – for more examples and details from participating institutions.  Or contact Elise Miller, the VSA Executive Director, at for more information.


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