4 methods for degree completion analysis

Evaluating Methods for Credential and Degree Completion Analysis

For the past decade, colleges and universities have faced new challenges around improving student success metrics all while advancing student recruitment. College enrollment rates have declined since 2010; and one year into the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic recession, enrollment trends are down fairly dramatically (as much as 8–10% for some institutions). Half of college students say COVID-19 may impact their ability to complete their degree or credential. 

With lower enrollment numbers, especially from important demographic groups, it’s now even more critical that schools retain and complete their current students. Preventing dropouts is key, but colleges and universities also need a strategy for encouraging stopouts to return for degree or credential completion. 

While proactively encouraging students to complete their degree and/or certificate helps boost outcomes metrics (e.g. retention rates, completion rates, etc.), the traditional resources and processes used to conduct a completion analysis for every student can be complex and expensive. Current processes often require dedicated human resources that could be better spent helping existing students or even developing programs to attract new enrollees.

There are a few different ways colleges track student progress towards degree completion. Here are some of those methods, the opportunities and challenges, and possible alternatives to encourage stronger completion rates. 

Processes for reviewing student completion

Manual processes 

Some institutions have utilized teams of people, often connected to the registrar’s office, student success teams or within Institutional Effectiveness, to track student progress and identify students at risk of stopping out, dropping out or generally getting off track in their efforts towards completion.

It takes a lot of people and a lot of time to manually review each student’s progress towards degree completion. There may not be enough staff to devote the time needed, and even when tools are available, they almost always require manual intervention. While some existing tools can track students against their declared goals (majors, minors, certificates, etc.), it’s practically impossible for them to track against undeclared goals. 

This method is time-consuming, uses too many resources, and it’s often fraught with errors leading to missed opportunities for potential student credential completion. 


Advisors are a crucial resource in not only supporting students but in helping colleges boost their completion rates and other outcomes metrics. 

Typically, during the normal course of their interactions with a student, advisors understand how close the student is to completing their degree/certificate, and may identify opportunities for other degrees/certificates by looking at their transcript. Given the typical advisor caseload, this is something that can be and often is missed or overlooked.

Relying on advisors to identify these opportunities during their meetings with students expands advisor expectations, impacting their ability to provide the level of holistic counseling necessary. Some schools have full-time professional advisors, faculty advisors or a combination of both. Depending on the ratio of advisors to students, and the workload of faculty advisors, in particular, these resources are generally already stretched thin. 

Ideally, these advisors are highly familiar with both the student’s transcript and the school’s course offerings and are able to identify completion opportunities on the spot. In reality, while advisors are ultimately effective, this process is highly variable and complex. Many advisors simply don’t have enough time or program-specific expertise. 

Bootstrapping existing planning systems

College and university registrars often have planning software that they think does a “good enough” job monitoring student progress towards degree completion (typically degree audit systems). Because it helps students gain an understanding of the courses they still need for completion of their declared goal or major, they think they can manually engineer a process for determining all facets of the student completion picture. 

Planning systems were designed for broader purposes. These systems can do some tasks related to degree completion analysis, but usually, not everything. They almost always can only compare against a student’s declared degree/certificate. They cannot show a student’s progress towards undeclared majors/minors or other credentials (such as certificates), or even how close a student may be to these other undeclared opportunities. To find that information, staff would need to put forth a lot more work as the existing tools and processes are not automated. 

Automated completion analysis

There’s an alternative solution to the degree completion analysis methods listed above. Previously, college and university staff have accepted the challenges that come with these methods because, until now, these have been the available options for conducting full-fledged completion analysis. 

To overcome these challenges, colleges need a solution that allows them to:

  • Reduce human resource overhead. Save time and improve staff effectiveness by automatically running all students against all degrees and certificates, allowing opportunities to focus on other impactful work. 
  • Identify additional completion opportunities. See how close a student is to completing credentials that they have not declared for; this identifies more completers or faster paths to completion for struggling students. 
  • Generate data on successful programs. Improve metrics (and funding opportunities) with automated discovery of successful outcomes, which can directly impact performance-based funding metrics. 

Introducing EduNav Summit

EduNav Summit is the first technology of its kind to provide automated degree completion analysis for all students against all credentials and degrees. EduNav Summit automatically compares each student’s unique academic history to the requirements, courses and prerequisites for every program offered by your institution. Summit can be deployed quickly and be delivering value in only a few months. 

Benefits of adopting Summit:

  • Data is updated automatically and in real time.
  • Data is always available in seconds as opposed to hours—or days—to retrieve. 
  • Generate actionable data for each student through the Summit interface, or export data for cohorts of students into your own business intelligence tools (e.g. filtering metrics across departments or by student demographic). 
  • EduNav does all the heavy lifting: limited IT involvement during implementation. 

To learn more about cutting-edge completion analysis solutions and to see what Summit can do for your institution contact us for a discussion today.


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