Data collected by the federal government to calculate the graduation rates among community college students includes only full-time students attending college for the first time. The U.S. Department of Education has announced plans to change how these graduation rates are reported at community colleges.
Graduation rates are measured over a three-year period, when in reality, it often takes students longer to get a diploma.
In April, the department released a plan to broaden graduation rates to include part-time students and students who are not attending college for the first time.
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"Not all students take a linear path in their pursuit of higher education," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement announcing the changes. "Many students work full-time and are balancing family obligations while also attending school. These new outcome measures will accurately demonstrate how postsecondary schools are preparing students for success in different ways."
Community colleges have long sought the changes and have said they're increasingly important as policymakers pay closer attention to performance metrics.
Nationwide, about 37 percent of full-time, first-time students at community colleges graduate within four years, according to the department of education.