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Regional Accreditors Will Push to Improve Graduation Rates

The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions has announced a plan to give more context to colleges’ graduation rates — numbers that have attracted the attention of think tanks, lawmakers, and others.

The council, an umbrella group for the seven regional accrediting commissions for educational institutions in the United States, said in a news release on Wednesday that during the accreditation process, its member agencies will expand their focus on graduation rates. The agencies will also pay special attention to four-year institutions whose graduation rates are at or below 25 percent, as well as to two-year institutions whose rate is at or below 15 percent.

Barbara Brittingham, chair of the council, said in an interview that the expanded review and the new common trigger for review would help the agencies identify trends. The accreditors will also review transfer rates and other data points to create a holistic picture.

Ms. Brittingham said that people often don’t understand what the graduation rate means. Typical graduation rates for four-year colleges are calculated by looking at first-time, full-time students over a six-year period.

For colleges with lower graduation rates, the accreditors will follow up to see what the institutions are doing to raise graduation rates, Ms. Brittingham said.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, applauded the plan in a statement.

“Today’s announcement recognizes the great diversity of higher-education institutions in this country and their individual missions, and takes into account the varying needs of the students they serve,” she said. “We look forward to working with accreditors on this important initiative.”

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