A Graph of GPA Across Total College Credits Used as a Basis for a Leavers Flow Model

 By Jeffrey Cornett
Director of Institutional Research
Ivy Tech Community College – Central Indiana Region 

The number one reason community college students leave is poor grades, especially for students new to college. However, there are many other reasons why students leave, including the transfer of successful students to other schools where they begin pursuing a bachelor’s degree even before completing their associate's degree. One way to explore patterns of attrition is to graph GPA patterns across the total credit hours earned. Students with poor GPAs will be primarily found on the left of the graph – having accumulated relatively few college credit hours. (View a larger,interactive PDF of the graphs below.)


Note: The above graph includes all degree-seeking students who were enrolled in Spring 2012. On the far right are those students who graduated at the end of that term. On the far left, in gray, are students who took only non-credit, college-prep Academic Skills Advancement (ASA) courses. 

Color scales range from bright green for our best students to bright red for our poorest performing students. Red, pink, and yellow illustrate those students with less than a 2.0 GPA.

This graph was used as a visual design standard for studying student outcomes the following fall. The patterns of GPA mix and credit hours earned vary dramatically depending on the category of student outcomes. The following dashboard illustrates these patterns.

Spring-to-fall leavers are dominated by students with bad grades. Even transfers out of our college include a mixture of academically successful and unsuccessful students.

Stop-Outs are students who were absent in the fall, but returned to our college the following spring. Drop-Outs did not return within a year. Drop-Outs include many students with good grades and many credit hours. 

Surveys show that students who drop out with good grades generally have experienced life events such as issues with jobs, family, and finances that prevent their returning to school right away. CCSSE survey engagement trends over 10 years and five surveys help to illustrate these issues.


Note: The above dashboard is distributed within our Interactive Knowledge Bank – a 600-page PDF document containing a hierarchy of visual illustrations navigated by dashboard models. When viewing the above dashboard page in our document, users can zoom in and out of full-page PDF graph displays by clicking on any of the above 18 graphs. The dashboard provides the big picture view of leaver patterns, but users can zoom in on any graph of interest to see details.




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Total Comments: 14
Susan posted on 1/15/2015 10:26 AM
Very informative graph and dashboard. Includes a great deal of data and information, but is easy to read. Also, it serves as an excellent example of how data from external sources (e.g., CCSSE) can help us make sense of data collected at the institution.
Norma posted on 1/15/2015 11:26 AM
Very informative. With a lot of data. Just a couple of questions: within your system are you able to get down to the 'n' by hovering? that could be helpful. also how do you differentiate between Transfers and drop outs? If you are using NSCH data do you note that the data available through NSCH is not exhaustive?
Mary posted on 1/15/2015 12:46 PM
What a great mix of graphic depictions, something for every type of viewer. I often have to really look at the more complex models but when I can see the smaller ones presented in this flow type of heirarchy by the time I look at the outcomes mix, I'm ready for it. I like this better than the bubbles that were new last year. Reminds me to keep it simple and create interest.
Jenn posted on 1/15/2015 1:38 PM
What a great way to organize complex data. Decision-makers have a sense of the big picture, and individuals can zoom in on what is most relevant to them. You might be able to promote greater interaction by phrasing some of the graph titles as questions or ask sample questions in captions below each small graph in the Leaver Flow Model.

It is also very encouraging to see survey data so intricately tied into institutional data. For a variety of reasons, these two are not always analyzed in conjunction with each other.
Terry posted on 1/15/2015 1:46 PM
This is the first time I have seen graphs combined with a flow chart. I like the effect, the eye is lead logically to the important information without having to mentally calculate the steps between.
Christy posted on 1/15/2015 2:40 PM
This is a great example of a useful example combined with an informative, appealing display of the information. Should be of considerable value to institutional leaders, faculty, and support service staff.
Tim posted on 1/15/2015 3:41 PM
These are very good ways of presenting the data, this fairly large size data-set from the state's community college flagship. The consistency of coloring and the overall organization make it easy to decipher and begin the conversation.
Elizabeth posted on 1/15/2015 5:07 PM
Are the examples of who the audience has been for this information and what decisions have been made using this data?
Ijay posted on 1/16/2015 7:02 AM
well presented ,colorful and very informative,though comprehensive but easy to read.Its noted that more leave as a result of low grades than any other reason.can this be extended to reveal those who dropout outrightly than just leaving or transferring?This is very good way of assessing Institutional internal efficiency
John posted on 1/16/2015 7:28 AM
Wow! I gotta see what my data looks like in this format. Thanks very much for sharing!
Rachel posted on 1/16/2015 10:55 AM
This is a great idea! I never would have thought to use pdfs to create an interactive dashboard. It depicts well the overall picture of which students are leaving and what their reasons may be. This way of showing the data is an inspiration for my next project!
Jeff posted on 1/17/2015 2:42 PM
Who has been the audience for this information, and what decisions have been made using this data?

Our interactive knowledge bank is distributed on our shared drive to all Ivy Tech employees, management, and even the students elected to the SGA. Copies are also provided to our Regional Board of Trustees. Information does not make decisions or cause them to be made, but does answer questions of decision makers. After presenting this research, our Board stopped asking us why students leave, and our SGA decided not to go ahead with their own survey research on leaver reasons. This is one dashboard of over 30 dashboards of information included in our interactive knowledge bank. Employees no longer feel as if we are missing or not sharing valuable information everyone needs in their job.
Belinda posted on 1/23/2015 8:42 AM
Stunning graphics: easy to read, lots of information. Especially like the flow chart and how it tells a story so efficiently.
Jeff posted on 4/15/2016 10:39 AM
To see the full implementation of the above within our interactive Knowledge Bank, go to the AIR 50th Anniversary Digital Time Capsule page at:

Our full 600-page Knowledge Bank is found about a third of the way down the page. Download the PDF and surf to the section on Leavers. The Flow Model above is much better experienced interactively while zooming in and out on selected graphs.