Data Driven Policy Adjustments for Improved Student Outcomes

 In IE Blog

Data Driven Policy Adjustments for Improved Student Outcomes

As part of a larger review of how policies may be impacting student success and the goals of the Integrated Student Experience, NECC’s Academic Affairs division has been considering challenges associated with several of its own practices and policies.  Recently, the Attendance and Non-Participation (NP) policy came under such a review.   

Currently, the policy states, “Faculty have the academic authority to remove students from their class for nonattendance or non-participation. A non-participating (NP) student is one who has excessive absences, has missed quizzes, tests or papers, or otherwise has failed to meet the participation standard clearly delineated in the course instructor’s syllabus.” Administrative Withdrawals (NWs) are subsequently assigned when NP students are removed from a class.

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (IE) got involved in the review to assist in analyzing financial aid and student data to evaluate the implications of the existing NP policy. We first examined the number of NWs a student received as it relates to their retention status.

Students were grouped by the number of NW grades they had in Fall 2021. Figure 1 illustrates our observation that the more NWs a student had in Fall 2021, the less likely they were to have returned to campus in Spring 2022:

Figure 1 – Retention Rates vs non-Graduating Student NW counts. Receiving an NW is strongly correlated with not returning the next semester.

This finding suggests that the NP policy as it is currently implemented could be serving as a barrier to completion to some students. As the policy currently stands, the criteria to assign an NP (which is converted to an NW at the end of the semester) is left to instructor discretion, so students may be unclear on if they are at risk of being automatically withdrawn. Furthermore, students may rely on being automatically withdrawn instead of intentionally communicating a desire to be withdrawn. These ambiguities may be an obstacle for NECC when trying to apply early intervention.

When discussing the current NP policy, one student ambassador explained, “it can be frustrating because the student may start thinking that they could’ve done better, they might even think that their potential was not enough. Some students might not care, but for some others it can be very hard. Especially if you’re NP’d from a class you were trying to get better at and just couldn’t.”

We also looked at this data, disaggregating by ethnicity, to determine if there may be any potential disparate impact on students. It was noted that a disproportionate amount of enrolled Hispanic identifying students received at least one NW compared to the students that identified as not Hispanic – There are more Hispanic identifying students receiving NWs than non-Hispanic identifying students despite the fact that non-Hispanic identifying students outnumber Hispanic identifying students. Under the assumption that the existing NP Policy serves as an obstacle for intervention initiatives and thereby student success, this suggests that the NP Policy may be having a disparate impact on NECC’s Hispanic population.

Figure 2 – NWs received by Ethnicity (Blanks excluded for clarity)

This analysis was used to inform the proposal for an alternative non-participation policy that aims to remove any barriers to student success that might be present in the existing policy. As said in Achieving the Dream’s Equity Statement (2022),  

Higher education must interrogate the disconnect between institutionalized practices that impact student success and the systemic structures and processes that continue to oppress and exclude students based on the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender identity, language, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, economic status, and/or religion.

Institutional effectiveness seeks to aid all areas of the college in leveraging data to guide decision-making – please reach out if we can help you similarly!


Achieving the Dream Equity Statement. Achieving the Dream. (2022, February 14). Retrieved April 1, 2022, from

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