CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Higher education success rates serve as vital indicators of an institution’s effectiveness in nurturing students’ academic growth and preparing them for the future workforce.

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According to the Utah System of Higher Education, the graduation rate is defined as successful completion of a certificate or associate’s degree within a three-year time span (when attending a two-year or community college). For those shorter-term institutions, transfer rates are also calculated. A transfer rate is considered a successful transfer to another institution prior to obtaining a degree. The combination of these two figures establishes success rates. These rates are extremely valuable in shedding light on the institution’s ability to retain and graduate its students, marking it as a desirable place for higher learning.

The formula for calculating higher education success rates is relatively straightforward. It involves comparing the number of students who graduate within the predetermined timeframe to the total number of students who entered the institution or program during the same period. That number is combined with the number of students who successfully transfer to another institution within the period. 

The resulting percentage signifies the institution’s success in guiding students to the timely completion of their degrees. While the calculation is straightforward, success is influenced by various factors.

Factors affecting success rates include student demographics, tuition affordability, the institution’s academic rigor, student life, real-life experience in and out of the classroom and postgraduate opportunities. For instance, universities with robust support systems, mentorship programs, financial aid options or lower tuition rates often exhibit higher success rates. Additionally, the type of degree pursued and the student’s collegiate experience can impact these rates significantly.

As a student and their family prepare for a higher education decision, analyzing success rates helps create a gauge by which they can compare various colleges and universities. By understanding the factors contributing to lower success rates, they can also narrow their choices. In many cases, success rates also even the playing field between larger universities and two-year and community colleges, creating the opportunity for a lower-cost education and more appealing long-term career goals. 

Considering Utah schools specifically: a look at Snow College

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Snow College has a combined 85% success rate, which is higher than the national average. Historically, this has been a pattern for Snow College. In 2017, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program named Snow College as one of the nation’s top 150 community colleges eligible to compete for their Excellence Award. The prize, awarded every two years, recognizes institutions for exceptional student outcomes. The college must show excellence in four areas, one of which is certificate and degree completion.  

One key factor to the success of the school is the affordability it allows students.

Snow College may offer significant cost savings when completing a two-year degree and then transferring to another institution to complete a four-year degree. For example, when a student attends Snow College for two years and then transfers to the University of Utah to complete a bachelor’s degree, they could save upwards of $42,000.

Snow College also has among the lowest per-semester tuition fees in the state, typically under $2,000 (tuition based on 12 credit hours, $1,898 average). With today’s economic uncertainty and rising student debt, this may become a larger consideration for student success in the coming years.

In essence, higher education success rates provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of educational institutions. By focusing on factors that influence these rates, students and their families can be guided toward academic completion, thereby creating a lifetime of achievement and a future with options.

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