Two-Year Cohort Default Rate

Nikisha Williams, Ph.D.
Director, Institutional Research
LIM College  

I am sometimes asked to present national data that include peer institutions. These data are not directly generated by my office, but I need to summarize them in a way that high-level decision-makers can easily understand. The chart below shows data on two-year cohort default rates for my institution as well as national averages for each sector of higher education. These data can be found at the U.S. Department of Education Default Prevention and Management website.   

The chart is included as a page in my fall factbook, but it can also be used as a one-page handout. It allows the reader to see in one glance both detailed information on default rates for my institution and comparisons to peer institutions. To emphasize the fluctuation in our default rate over time, I used a red line to represent LIM College in the figure. This also cuts down on the visual clutter created by showing a seven-year trend for five groups. The table provides the additional context of the actual number of students included in the default rate calculation for my institution.

In brief, the chart allows decision-makers to see that although our two-year default rate has trended upward, it remains below the average rate for our specific sector and the national rate in general. 




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Total Comments: 8
Jeff posted on 1/15/2014 5:13 PM
The contrast in color (red vs. shades of purple) and graph type (line chart vs. bars) is very effective at focusing the eye on LIM college against a backdrop of benchmark comparison alternatives. Although the LIM trend is discouraging, it is clearly seen as a reflection of typical trends elsewhere.
Ghenet posted on 1/15/2014 6:14 PM
The color code & legend is clear and the display is visually great. It is a great way to summarize information for stakeholders. However, at a glance, the line could be confusing. It would have been better appealing had the line been drawn consistent with FY, from past to present default rate bars (x-axis). The arrow of the red line is on FY2005 pointing to previous FY (starts at FY2011, and goes backwards).
Terry posted on 1/16/2014 9:21 AM
Very effective chart and what makes it effective is it easily highlights the data in context. Since the results are not particularly encouraging it is doubly important to show the problem being more widespread than at your college.
Betsy posted on 1/16/2014 9:58 AM
I like this. It's very clear and easy to see how the target college stacks up against various comparison national averages. The only change I would make would be to simplify the y axis to remove the decimals and leave it at 2%, 4%, etc.
Bob posted on 1/16/2014 11:43 AM
Since the graph is missing a title, I am confused by what the percents in the bars represent. I assume that it is the percent of students in default by the categories in the table below the graph. At least that is what I read in the text above. But, if someone does not read the text, then the meaning of the bars and line maybe lost.
Tim posted on 1/16/2014 12:39 PM
The overlay of the line with the bars is an effective way to look at the four national data information points. The colors work well as a high contrast as well. Also, the order of which the lines are grouped is a logical sense and makes for easy in reading.
Pam posted on 1/16/2014 1:48 PM
I have just begun experimenting with bar & line graph combinations. This is a great example. I like the way the lines highlight the institution in question and provide an easy comparison to the other groups.
Katie posted on 1/23/2014 3:39 PM
Very clever! Although the exact percentages that appear within each bar may be of interest to your audience, I am not sure that they are needed. Also, I would probably remove the horizontal lines that appear in the background.