Early Momentum Metrics and Effecting Long-Term Student Success at NECC

 In IE Blog

Did you know that students that complete fifteen or more college level credits within the first year have a significantly higher rate of graduation compared to the students that don’t? As our institution seeks to make swift adaptations to the ever-changing landscape of higher education to best serve our students, it is more vital than ever that we find data-driven approaches to evaluate the efficacy of our practices and any changes that we make to them. However, the pathway to graduation for a student (a common measure of student success) very often spans long periods of time – for our Certificate receiving graduates of Spring 2022, it took 7.6 enrolled terms on average for them to receive their Certificate (see this linked blog post for more). It is simply not feasible to wait such long periods of time to see if any changes that we make in the short term are making a difference for our students – enter early momentum metrics.

What are Early Momentum Metrics?

Research from Columbia University’s Community College Research Center (CCRC) has identified a set of metrics that can be collected early on in a community college student’s academic career that predict longer term success for students. These metrics fall under three primary categories:

  • Credit Momentum
    • Did the student complete a certain number of credits within their first term/year?
  • Gateway Course Completion
    • Did the student complete college-level English and/or Math in their first year?
  • Persistence Momentum
    • Did the student persist from Fall to spring in their first year?

(Belfield et al., 2019)

While these early momentum metrics purport to be a promising new way for us to measure the efficacy of reform efforts here at the college, we first want to test if these metrics show any merit by looking at the relationship between these early momentum metrics and our students’ graduation rates.

Figure 1: Graduation Rates by Credit Momentum Status for all Students from Fall 2006 to Spring 2022

Figure 2: Graduation Rates by Gateway Course Completion in the First Year for all Students from Fall 2006 to Spring 2022

Figure 3: Graduation Rates by Fall to Spring Persistence in the First Year for all Students From Fall 2006 to Spring 2022

As it turns out, fifteen years of NECC’s historical student data clearly corroborates the claims made by the CCRC: NECC students that met all or some of each early momentum metric had substantially higher graduation rates than those that did not. Thus, our evaluation is that these early momentum metrics are a powerful tool to evaluate the effect of short-term changes in institutional practices on long-term student success! With this said, Institutional Effectiveness has developed a dashboard to monitor changes in these early momentum metrics from cohort to cohort based on each group’s starting term at NECC, and it is accessible at the link below!

Check out the Dashboard Here

Now that we know that these early momentum metrics are relevant to our students at NECC, here’s some food for thought as you explore the dashboard:

  • How can you in your role make a difference in some of these metrics?
  • What questions do you have when you look at the data?
  • Using an equity lens, what does this data tell us about the outcomes for our Hispanic students versus our non-Hispanic students?

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness is always seeking ways to better monitor institutional progress and we’re happy to share this new tool!


Belfield, C., Jenkins, D., & Fink, J. (2019, July). Early Momentum Metrics: Leading Indicators for Community College Improvement. Community College Research Center. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/early-momentum-metrics-leading-indicators.pdf

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