Avoid mistakes when calculating student attrition

Summer 2009

The accreditation system can sometimes be complex and confusing, even to those who are intimately involved with it. One area in which we get a lot of questions is outcomes assessment, especially as it relates to attrition.

Colleges are required to provide an analysis of outcomes involving student achievement. For example, student attrition must be analyzed to separate students leaving the program (never returning) from those who recycle or transfer to other DVM programs.

The "Attrition in Standard 11 Outcomes Assessment" document on the AVMA website can be a big help in putting together the required analysis, particularly Table B, which deals specifically with attrition rates and students' reasons for leaving.

Some of the key questions that people have when filling in this table include:

  • How do I calculate the percentage of absolute attrition?
  • What should be put in the first attrition column?
  • What should be put in the relative attrition personal column? Is it meant to capture anyone who won't graduate with their class for any reason other than academic, or only those who left for a truly personal reason like a change in career goals? For example, should it include those in a PhD program?

The FAQ section of the AVMA COE's website provides answers to these questions and more:

How do I calculate the percentage of absolute attrition?
Answer: The percentage of absolute attrition is equal to the number of students who will not return, divided by the original number of students in their class when they entered the program.

What should be put in the first attrition column?
Answer: The first attrition column is meant to capture all students who will not graduate with their class, regardless of reason.

What should be put in the relative attrition personal column?
Answer: The relative attrition personal column is meant to include only those students who left for a truly personal reason, such as a change in career goals. It should not include students who leave for non-personal reasons, such as entering a PhD program.

 


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