Degree Velocity®


tealquoteWe need to eliminate the a la carte choices. Students have so many choices, and they are making choices that are not productive and don’t count toward the degree. tealquote1

Colleges and universities are increasingly under pressure to graduate students faster. The goal of on-time completion is multifaceted, and student success is a critical factor. 

Degree Velocity® can inform an institution whether or not they’re on track to attain a graduation rate goal and the strategic actions/interventions necessary to positively impact it. Benchmarking Degree Velocity® allows institutions to review programs for intervention and help students increase degree momentum. 


Degree Velocity® Analysis

Used as an in-progress metric, Degree Velocity® calculates the number of productive credit hours earned by a student. Degree Velocity achievement requires an in-depth look at the pathways of full- and part-time students and asking insightful questions to make information at the institutional level actionable at the program level.


Why Degree Velocity® Matters

  • Informs real-time student progress toward degree completion of a cohort
  • Offers an enhanced lens of progress beyond gross credit hour accumulation
  • Measures productive/total credits/year; time to degree: current pace/corrected pace (years); and credits to degree: current pace/corrected pace
  • Assesses if credits are productively meeting pathway requirements
  • Predicts progress in future semesters and time to completio
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Degree Velocity® in Action


Cheri Mae
Director of Enrollment Strategies/Registrar
Germanna Community College, Locust Grove, VA

The Results

Enrollment YOY: +1% 

Degree Velocity: 15% increase (Fall 2021: 33%, Spring 2022: 38%)  

Time to Degree: 4.9% decrease (Fall 2021: 6.1 years, Spring 2022: 5.8 years) 

Productive Credit Hours/Year: 12.2% increase (Fall 2021: 9.8 hours, Spring 2022: 11 hours) 

Credits to Degree: 21.5% decrease (Fall 2021: 116 hours, Spring 2022: 91)



Benefits of On-Time Graduation


On-time graduation decreases the time to career launch and overall spend on college.


On-time completion can boost institutional reputation through positive word of mouth, which can enhance new student recruitment and the potential of alumni giving.

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Indicators Toward Degree Velocity® Progress

Leading and lagging indicators can help leaders develop, implement, and monitor progress toward equitable institutional outcomes and support student success. As a leading indicator, Degree Velocity® can help an institution stay informed by looking at the current student cohort under review by offering a ratio comparing actual to expected degree progress. 

  1. Leading indicators measure ongoing progress toward a goal with the ability to closely monitor effectiveness, refine early student success interventions, and understand if equity gaps exist. This includes the ability to predict expected retention and graduation rates, internal program migration, and enrollment projections today and in the future.

  2. Lagging indicators are summative, measuring historical performance (retention and graduation rates) without allowing for immediate analysis and implementation of specific interventions with a current cohort. Assumptions made from one student population to the next offer few actionable insights to positively impact a cohort under review.




Ask the Tough Questions

Dig deeper by asking

  • Why are certain degrees taking longer to complete?
  • Are these degrees more specialized in some way?
  • Are the courses not offered every term?
  • What pathway-related situations could be restricting student flow?

Measuring Impact
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Sample Biology Program Data – 4 year Institution

69% Degree Velocity®

96% Enrollment Ratio in pathway courses for this program

63% of required courses ‘Overloaded’

6 of 10 pathway requirements identified in ‘First Year’ are taken later in students’ career than prescribed 

Top Unproductive Courses

  • CHEM 2323 – Organic Chemistry I – High DFW
  • CHEM 1311 – Fund of Chemistry – High DFW
  • MATH 2414 – Calc II – High DFW
  • Math 2413 – Calc I – High DFW
  • CHEM 2325– Organic Chemistry II – High DFW
  • HLT 3325 – Medical Terminology – Not on Pathway


Factors that Impact Degree Velocity®

  • Too many unnecessary prerequisites and degree requirements
  • Unclear degree pathways, courses not on the pathway, or failing to use pathways
  • Scheduling conflicts and insufficient class availability per instructional modality
  • Expiration of financial aid eligibility and SAP
  • Failing to re-recruit stop-outs
  • Lack of academic preparedness and inadequate advising
  • Change of major

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Collaborate to Improve Degree Velocity®

Scheduling in conjunction with the registrar’s office can inform degree audit pathways and secondary course demand, highlight scheduling conflicts, and assist with room allocation.

Data sharing, predictive analytics, dialog across all college stakeholders, and professional development can further inform the process along with looking at the prospective student pipeline in regard to the number of admits, re-admits, and expected yield rates.


Evaluate Degree Velocity® by pathway



Determine causality

# of credits completed
# of productive credits completed


Plan intervention strategies


Longitudinal tracking to measure outcome


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Start Improving Degree Velocity® Today

Scheduling is an incredibly complex issue that impacts students and institutions. Determining and applying leading indicators of student success allow an institution to be more proactive in moving the needle toward on-time completion and Degree Velocity®. 


Interested in improving the Degree Velocity® of your institution’s programs? 

Ad Astra can help you leverage analytics to identify where and why students are falling off their pathway. Discover how data can inform intervention strategies that support on-time degree completion.