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Early Momentum Metrics: Why They Matter for College Improvement

By: Davis Jenkins & Thomas Bailey

Abstract

Early Momentum Metrics: Why They Matter for College Improvement

In this brief, the authors propose three measures of “early momentum” that colleges can use to gauge whether institutional reforms are improving student outcomes:

1. Credit momentum—defined as attempting at least 15 semester credits in the first term or at least 30 semester credits in the first academic year.

2. Gateway momentum—defined as taking and passing pathway-appropriate college-level math and college-level English in the first academic year.

3. Program momentum—defined as taking and passing at least nine semester credits in the student’s field of study in the first academic year.

Research is beginning to show that these near-term metrics predict long-term success. In addition, these metrics focus attention on initial conditions at colleges that are particularly important for solidifying the foundation for student success. The authors discuss in detail the evidence supporting these metrics and how using early momentum metrics can help colleges reframe and focus reform efforts in positive ways.