Eduventures® Student Success Ratings Identify Institutions That Excel at Retaining and Graduating Students

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After Analyzing 1,100 Institutions, the Report Illustrates Which Have Made Demonstrated Improvements in Student Retention and Graduation Rates and How They Were Successful

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Given our philosophical standpoint that all student success efforts are highly contextualized to institutional settings, the case studies of overperforming institutions included in this report will bring a depth of understanding to how they have been able to achieve real student success.

The National Research Center for College and University Admissions™ (NRCCUA®), an educational data science and research organization that was recently acquired by ACT®,​ ​today announced findings from its Eduventures Research division. The 2019 Student Success Ratings Report is designed to help colleges, universities, students, and their families by identifying institutions that excel at retaining and graduating students, as well as potential trouble spots that would hinder student success initiatives.

Efforts to improve student success involve almost every constituent on campus and are among the most complex endeavors an institution can make. Institutions of different sizes with different student bodies and different missions must find contextually appropriate approaches. Even then, changing the institutional culture, prioritizing a new strategy, and executing targeted programs is challenging. By showcasing best practice examples, the Student Success Ratings Report can help other institutions find their own way.

The Eduventures Student Success Ratings offer an excellent starting point for institutional self-management on student success. Note that this report identifies schools’ “ratings” not “rankings.” This is a small, but important distinction. Fundamentally, Eduventures created these scores for institutions to measure themselves against their own efforts within the context of their peers. This is a subtle point, because one institution surely does end up being the top-rated institution. From a philosophical standpoint, however, the ratings are intended for self-reflection in balance with competitive comparison.

Which colleges and universities are beating the student success odds?

Eduventures analyzed more than 1,100 institutions based in the United States and compared a composite of each institution’s predicted retention and graduation rates with its actual rates based on academics, affordability, and social factors. The results of that analysis, our Student Success Ratings, with institutions categorized by Doctoral, Master’s, and Baccalaureate levels in both public and private sectors, can be found here:

Key findings from the 2019 report include the following:

  • Our research on overperforming schools shows us that the best public institutions are aggressively moving forward on the agenda to improve completion rates. For over-performing private institutions that generally have less room to improve than the public sector, we see evidence of steady balanced improvement in both first-year retention and graduation rates.
  • At the low end, the underperforming public institutions are mired in persistent poor performance on graduation rates with continuing slight declines in both retention and graduation. In the private sector, these underperforming institutions are experiencing more acute cases of decline. According to our research, they should be doing better given their circumstances, and their retention and graduation rates are approaching something of a freefall.

According to Kim Reid, Eduventures Principal Research Analyst and author of the study, “Given our philosophical standpoint that all student success efforts are highly contextualized to institutional settings, the case studies of overperforming institutions included in this report will bring a depth of understanding to how they have been able to achieve real student success.”

Quantitative Research that Matters

The cornerstone of Eduventures Research is the quantitative research that is conducted across multiple disciplines within higher education. A team of experienced quantitative research analysts collects and analyzes data from both prospective and current students.

Eduventures Research conducts a wide array of scientific survey projects each year, from highly-targeted single-client surveys to large multi-client studies that include tens of thousands of prospective students. It provides a combination of robust measurement tools, custom data cuts, data analysis, and ongoing client advisory services to help private, public, nonprofit, and for-profit institutions accelerate their recruiting strategies, boost program growth, and create compelling messages for their target audiences.


Now part of ACT, The National Research Center for College and University Admissions is an educational data science and research organization serving over 1,900 member institutions comprised of public and private colleges and universities across the nation. Since 1972, NRCCUA has been a leading provider of data, technology, and programs serving students, high school educators, colleges, and universities from its offices in Lee’s Summit, MO, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Austin, TX. These solutions represent the link between students making important life decisions and those organizations providing the resources and information they need to succeed in their post-secondary educations and careers. With the launch of Encoura™ Data Lab, the company now combines data science, advanced analytics, Eduventures research, predictive modeling, and omnichannel enrollment services in one platform to enable institutions to make real-time strategic and operational decisions to meet their unique enrollment goals and create the highest probability of student success. For more information, visit ​

About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as the nation’s leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality achievement assessments grounded in more than 50 years of research and experience. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions that help people succeed from elementary school through career, providing insights that unlock potential. To learn more about ACT, visit

Members of the media who would like to speak to the author of this study or obtain the full report can contact Ellen Slaby at

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Mary Kay Hyde
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Ellen Slaby
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