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Unpacking Program Enrollments and Completions With Equity in Mind

Unpacking Program Enrollments and Completions With Equity in Mind

This guide presents examples and instructions for data analyses colleges can conduct to better understand student enrollments and completions in particular programs. Such analyses can help colleges scrutinize representation of historically marginalized groups in programs leading to greater opportunity after graduation. There is an equity imperative in this effort. Without disaggregating program enrollments with an eye to what those programs lead to—and interrogating and redesigning practices and policies perpetuating inequities—student success reform approaches such as guided pathways will likely continue to reinforce existing racial/ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic stratification. Examining representation across college programs with equity in mind is an important complement to the work colleges are doing to increase completion rates overall and close equity gaps.

The authors recommend that colleges undertake a series of data exercises and reflective discussions based on the following three questions:

  1. What programs are our students currently enrolled in?
  2. What opportunity does each program lead to in terms of further education (e.g., transfer to bachelor’s programs or bridges into more advanced workforce credentials) and/or immediate job prospects and earnings. Which programs lead to greater or lesser opportunity?
  3. Is student representation across programs proportionate? Which subgroups of students (by race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and age) are underrepresented in higher-opportunity programs?

To answer these questions, the authors show how to carry out a set of relatively simple data analyses that colleges can replicate using their own data. Similar analyses can be used to examine program completions.