Student Achievement

Southern Union State Community College evaluates success with respect to student achievement and confirms that methods used to measure student success support the College’s mission.

Essential to student achievement is the College’s mission to, “provide quality and relevant teaching and learning in academic, technical, and health science programs that are affordable, accessible, equitable, and responsive to the diverse needs of the students.”

The College uses a variety of formative and summative measures from regional, state, local, and national data as benchmarks for student success. College personnel, including but not limited to, faculty, division chairpersons, and members of the Executive Council, Administrative Council, and Institutional Effectiveness Committee, and program accrediting bodies, determine a target threshold of acceptability for each measure.

The College benchmarks include annual data published from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the Alabama Commission of Higher Education (ACHE), and the National Student Clearinghouse. Designated achievement measures for evaluating student success include graduation rates, fall-to-fall retention rates, fall-to-spring retention rates for first time freshmen, job placement rates for career technical education, concentrator data for career technical programs, licensure pass rates for Health Science programs, and quantitative course success rates for general education courses.

Appropriate data to document student achievement is compiled annually by department chairpersons, appointed assessment coordinators, and the Institutional Effectiveness Committee.  Academic outcomes and methods for assessing attainment of outcomes have been formulated in terms of general education outcomes, division operational outcomes, and student learning outcomes. The assessment methods are designed to measure student achievement (learning) and to gauge the quality of curricula and instruction offered by all departments of the College. The outcomes are directly related to and emanate from the College’s mission statement. Efforts to ensure quality instructional techniques and student achievement begin at the departmental/program level and are part of the annual institutional effectiveness cycle.  Each department at the College  documents program operational outcomes and student learning outcomes in an electronic Unit Planning System which details initial assessment, measurable student learning outcomes, a plan of action to improve student learning, assessment measures, analysis of results, and ways in which the results have been used to improve the College’s services  and instructional programs.

College-Wide Measures

The College strives to provide programs that are responsive to the needs of the students, community, business, industry, and government. The College determined appropriate student achievement measures for the institutional level to include retention and graduation rates such as those reflected in Table 4.1 - 1, Table 4.1 - 2 and Table 4.1 - 3 for students of the College.  The Alabama Commission of Higher Education (ACHE) publishes an annual Retention Report for First-Time Degree–Seeking Freshmen Students Returning for a Second Academic Year. Student retention is often associated with factors such as workforce changes, student support systems, and availability of financial aid. As a result, the College strives to attain the State fall-to-fall retention rate for each cohort of first time, degree certificate-seeking freshmen reported by The Alabama Commission of Higher Education (ACHE).The College has exceeded the State average for the Fall 2010, Fall 2011, and Fall 2012 cohorts. For graduation rates, the College strives to be within five percent (5%) of the on-time State graduation rate average for fall cohorts of full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking freshmen. Table 4.1 - 2 supports the on-time graduation rate for the College meets the benchmark. The College also aims to be within five percent (5%) of the 150% of normal time to completion rate for fall cohorts of full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking freshmen. Table 4.1 - 3 provides support that the College meets the benchmark and has improved each year. When College benchmarks are not achieved, the results are identified and included in the College’s institutional effectiveness cycle with an action plan for improvement. Reverse transfer agreements and auto posting of degrees are two strategies used to increase the completion rate for the College. Comparative State data are accessed through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System’s (IPEDS) Data Center, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), and the Alabama Commission of Higher Education (ACHE). 

Table 4.1 - 1 Retention for First-Time Degree-Seeking Freshmen Students Returning for a Second Academic Year

Table 4.1 - 1 reflects comparable fall-to-fall retention rates for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 cohorts of entering freshmen with totals provided by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

Table 4.1 - 2 Fall 2010, Fall 2011, and Fall 2012 On-Time Graduation Rate (Percentage of Total Graduates)

Table 4.1 - 2 shows that, of students who completed degrees, an average of 7.6 % of them graduated on time for the fall 2010, fall 2011, and fall 2012 cohorts.

Table 4.1 - 3 Fall  2010, Fall 2011, and Fall 2012 150% Graduation Rate (Percentage of Total Graduates)

The Institutional Effectiveness Committee and Executive Council make data results available to faculty and staff through the College’s Intranet and the Administrative Council. The College analyzes graduation data at the program level. The Institutional Effectiveness Committee examines graduation and retention rates annually to benchmark the College against peer institutions.

Career Technical Program Measures

The Career Technical Education programs (CTE) at the College target goals which emanate from the College’s mission: (1) to provide quality and relevant teaching and learning in technical and health science programs; (2) that are affordable, accessible, equitable, and responsive to the diverse needs of the students, community, business, industry, and government. Specifically, the College’s Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are evaluated utilizing Core Indicator performance standards established by State and Federal benchmarks reported in the annual College Performance Report on Career and Technical Education. A performance trend analysis is used to monitor the College’s performance over time. The College’s performance on Core Indicators is reported as a combined total of all CTE programs as depicted in
Table 4.1 - 4. 

Table 4.1 - 4 Perkins Core Indicator Trend Analysis 2011-2014


2011-2012  2012-2013  2013-2014
  1P1 - Concentrators attaining technical skills       
Target Performance 86% 87.56% 87.56%
Actual Performance 81% 88.93% 93.73%
  2P1 - Concentrators earning award/credentials
Target Performance 58% 60% 60%
Actual Performance  86% 69% 68.75%
  3P1 - Concentrators remaining enrolled 
Target Performance 75% 76.86%  77%
Actual Performance 74% 85.01% 75.30%
  4P1 - Student placement  
Target Performance 79% 81.65% 79%
Actual Performance  60% 80% 80%
  5P1 - Nontraditional student participation 
Target Performance  18% 18% 18%
Actual Performance  13% 46.38%  46.59%
  5P2 - Nontraditional student completers
Target Performance 13%  14% 14%
Actual Performance 14%  12.27%  12.89%


During the 2011-2012 academic year, the College reported 1364 CTE concentrators, in 2012-2013 the College reported 1230 CTE concentrators, and in 2013-2014 the College reported 1181 concentrators. Performance on core indicators that fall below the state established targeted benchmarks are identified and included in the College’s institutional effectiveness cycle with an action plan for improvement that begins at the program level. 

In Table 4.1 - 5, the Technical Division’s enrollment and retention are charted. Technical Division faculty members have taken a proactive approach to student retention by developing a student contact form and making personal contact with students who have attendance issues. Each program faculty member reviews the retention rates for his or her individual program and compares it with the overall division average.  During the 2012-2013 academic year, the Technical Division had an overall 58 percent retention rate from Fall term to Spring term for first term freshman; however, during the 2013-2014 academic year (Fall to Spring) after implementation of the procedures related to student contact and use of the contact form, an 83% retention rate was reported.

Table 4.1 - 5 Technical Division Fall to Spring Enrollment and Retention

CTE placement rates are also used to assess student achievement. The percentage of career/technical education full completers employed in military or apprenticeship programs in the second quarter following the program year in which they left postsecondary is also gathered and reported.  The College uses a 70% benchmark for the placement rates in its Technical Division Programs.  Table 4.1 - 6 has the placement data for the Technical Division.

Table 4.1 - 6 Technical Division Placement Rate

Technical Division Placement Rates
Program  2011 - 2012  2012-2013  2013-2014
Autobody Collision Repair 21.40% 50.00% 75%
Air Conditioning & Refrigeration 56.30%  100.00% 100%
Automotive Service  38.50% 75.00% 100%
Cosmetology 41.50% 67.00% 81%
Engineering Graphics and Design  37.50%  83.00%  54%
Industrial Electricity/ Electronics 82.80% 100.00% 100%
Manufacturing Technology  38.50% 100.00% 100%
Machine Shop Technology  70.60%  75.00%  100%
Welding Technology  40.90% 86.00% 100%
Tractor Trailer Truck Driver  96.00%  93.00%  100%


The College has established an additional indicator for CTE Health Science programs requiring licensure or external assessment for employment. Health Sciences, including EMS, Surgical Technology, Radiologic Technology, are required to pass either a national registry or licensure exam before employment. In addition each Health Science program participates in an external accreditation process which influences the program’s benchmark for licensure. The College uses the program accreditation or regulatory agency recommendations for licensure/registry pass rates as program outcomes. The nursing program’s benchmark is 80% for first time test takers. CTE program licensure and registry pass rates are assessed annually and documented in yearly accreditation program reports to help ensure student achievement and to determine if changes to instruction or curriculum are indicated.

Associate Degree Measures

The College offers the Associate in Science degree for students wishing to attain additional education at a four-year institution. In support of the College’s mission to offer quality academic programs, the College has identified representative courses from each of the five areas of the Associate Degree Curriculum. The benchmark is 70 percent (70%) for the selected courses from areas one through four identified in the STARS guide. In addition, the College uses an analysis of Grade Distribution reports (math, biology, psychology, and history) which are generated each semester and distributed for analysis to instructional deans, department chairpersons, and instructors. Annual reports from transfer institutions such as Auburn University are also reviewed. Instructors use these reports to compare student performance in their classes to class norms for the College. Course reports are included that define the course completion rates in selected courses since Fall Semester 2010 for the various degrees. Distance education classes are included and compared using the same criteria used for traditional lecture classes. An analysis of the data and a description of how the data are used to improve the instructional programs are included in the Unit Planning and Assessment System sample provided.