Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Curriculum & Instruction

Degree Granting Department

Leadership, Counseling, Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

Kathleen P. King, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Donald A. Dellow, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Miller, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William H. Young III, Ed.D.


college, college student attendance, completion, graduation, graduation rate


One of the challenges facing higher education today is to graduate undergraduate students in a timely manner. Graduation rates are reported to students, parents, and the general public as well as academic and political leaders. The rates are derived using different methodologies. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) collects data annually by law from every institution offering federal financial aid in the United States. The "IPEDS reported" students are considered students who start in the fall semester, full-time, first-time in college, and graduate from the original institution (no transfers). The adult, part-time, returning, and transfer students, or "IPEDS unreported" students, are left out of the numbers. The purpose of this research is to understand how current college graduation data are collected in the United States and to compare that information with post-secondary attendance and transfer patterns. This study proposes to document the data of "IPEDS reported" and "IPEDS unreported" graduated students from one academic year and to propose alternatives for holistic and inclusive methods for counting graduation numbers that reflect current enrollment trends. Furthermore, emphasis of the serious implications of these data for students, parents, policymakers, institutional leaders, and politicians who rely on these data to make informed decisions regarding higher education will be discussed. This research contributes to innovative solutions for calculating graduation rates that adhere to updated methods that count and value all graduated students and their successes.