PAS is part of the Center for Postsecondary Research (CPR) at Indiana University
Practice- and policy-oriented research on opportunity and equity in postsecondary education and on the multiple pathways of 21st century students toward postsecondary academic success and employment

Research on Academic Success

College Student Success

Contact Us

Email is likely to be the most efficient way to reach us, and we can use e-mail to arrange follow-up phone conversations.

Don Hossler

Phoebe Khasiala Wakhungu
Project Manager

Project on Academic Success
1900 E. Tenth Street
Eigenmann Hall, Suite 630
Bloomington, IN 47406-7512

New Conference Papers from PAS!

Presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Philadelphia, PA.

Organizational Structures Associated with Community College Student Success: Results from a National Survey
Mary Ziskin, Eunkyoung Park, Desiree Zerquera; Vasti Torres, & Donald Hossler

This paper presents findings from a national survey of community colleges. Descriptive results show the scope and forms of the resources and policies that institutions dedicate to improving student success, and results from ordinary least squares regression analyses explore organizational structures and policies associated with institutional completion and retention rates.

Presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA, in the paper session,
To Buy or Not to Buy: Decisions and Debt in Higher Education:

Exploring Student Experiences with Debt and Educational Expenses
Desiree Zerquera, Vasti Torres, Tomika Ferguson, and Brian McGowan

This paper considers how students use different financial sources to pay for school. Findings from focus groups held with undergraduate students across four campuses within a public university system in the Midwest revealed findings in three key areas: (1) perceived versus actual costs of attending college, (2) feelings about carrying debt, and (3) effects of debt on students. Implications for research, practice, and policy are suggested, and center on stronger efforts for financial literacy on campuses.

Higher Education Expenses: A Deeper Look at Debt and How Students Manage
Desiree Zerquera, Vasti Torres, Eunkyoung Park, and Mary Ziskin

Despite the national attention focused on student debt, how students accrue debt while in college remains poorly understood. This study reports findings from institutional and original survey data from undergraduates enrolled within a multicampus university system. The presentation of findings describes students' expenses and examines predictors of debt.

New PAS Releases!

Enrollment Trends
Student Financial Aid
Enhancing Student Success
Research Methods


Enrollment Trends

The report, Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Attainment Rates is the state supplement to the national study on college completion, Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2008 Cohort (2014), and is the eighth in the Signature Report series from the partnership of PAS and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center. Looking state by state at the various pathways students take to complete a college degree or certificate, and including detailed tables, this report provides a state-level view of college completion outcomes within the four-year public, two-year public, and four-year private nonprofit sectors.

Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates—Fall 2008 Cohort
This new report from the partnership of PAS and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center is the third annual report in the NSC Signature Report series on national college completion rates. The report, Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates—Fall 2008 Cohort, offers the first look at the six-year outcomes for students who began postsecondary education in Fall 2008, the cohort that entered college during the Great Recession—revealing the various pathways students took toward degree completion as well as completion rates through May 2014 for the different student types on each pathway. The 2008 cohort's outcomes are also compared to those of the Fall 2007 cohort (analyzed in the second annual completion rates report).

Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates
From PAS's partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, this seventh release in the Signature Report series examines 31 million students who enrolled in college during the past 20 years, to determine if they received a degree or certificate. The report, Some College, No Degree: A National View of Students with Some College Enrollment, but No Completion, gives a national view that allows us to see this group in a more differentiated way. This report is based on student-level data made available to the Clearinghouse by its more than 3,600 participating colleges and universities, which tracks 96 percent of college enrollments nationwide.

Reverse Transfer: A National View of Student Mobility from Four-Year to Two-Year Institutions
From PAS's partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center, this third release in the NSC Signature Report series examines enrollment pathways of reverse transfer students, those who move from four-year to two-year institutions outside of summer months. Understanding this type of student mobility can help campus policymakers at both two-year and four-year institutions craft policies to help the institutions and students reach their goals.

Transfer & Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions
Many postsecondary students no longer follow a traditional path from college entry to degree at a single institution but, instead, attend multiple institutions, transferring once, twice, or even three times before earning a degree. Yet most institution-based reporting overlooks these students, focusing on those who enter as first-time freshmen and treating students who do not receive a degree from their first institution as dropouts. To address this gap in the research, a new report from the partnership of the Project on Academic Success with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center analyzes student-level enrollment data to examine the transfer behaviors over five years of virtually all students who began postsecondary education in the U.S. in fall 2006. The second in the NSC's Signature Report series.

The report's release is announced by the Indiana University News Room at

National Postsecondary Enrollment Trends: Before, During, and After the Great Recession
Using data from the comprehensive national student database at the National Student Clearinghouse, this report examines enrollment patterns of first-time students entering colleges and universities during fall terms from 2006 through 2010. The first release in the Clearinghouse Research Center's new Signature Report series.

The report's release is announced by the Indiana University News Room at


Student Financial Aid

Student Aid and Its Role in Encouraging Persistence
Don Hossler, Mary Ziskin, Jacob Gross, Sooyeon Kim, & Osman Cekic
Published by Springer in Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, Vol. 24, and available at the SpringerLink online database at:

To synthesize current understandings of how financial aid affects undergraduate persistence and graduation, the authors conducted an extensive review of studies published since 1990 in this area. They identify how the studies were conducted as well as the summative knowledge from them of the effects of grants and loans on persistence and graduation; the specific effects on persistence and graduation of merit aid, loans, and programmatic elements; and the effects of debt on student success outcomes.


Institutional Aid and Student Persistence: An Analysis of the Effects of Campus-Based Financial Aid at Public Four-Year Institutions
Jacob P.K. Gross, Don Hossler, & Mary Ziskin
Published in the NASFAA Journal of Student Financial Aid.

Although billions of dollars are disbursed each year in institutional aid, much of the research to date on student persistence does not consider such aid. The authors of this study used a statewide student unit record database to examine the effects of institutional financial aid on year-to-year persistence among first-time, first-year students at three large doctorate-granting public universities.


Enhancing Student Success

Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Patterns, Predictions, and Implications for Informing Policy Discussions
Vasti Torres & Desiree Zerquera
This article seeks to identify and assess the readiness of potential Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs)—institutions located within Latino communities projected to increase the number of Latino/a high school graduates. Institutions are described based on evaluation of institutional missions, planning documents, programs, and marketing strategies—resulting in three institutional categories: unaware, aware, and committed institutions.

An Examination of Institutional Practices Surrounding Student Retention (paper)(PowerPoint slides)
Afet Dadashova, Mary Ziskin, & Don Hossler
2010 ASHE Annual Conference, Indianapolis, IN

Reports results of a national survey conducted by the College Board Study on Student Retention showing the scope and specific forms of the policies and practices four-year colleges and universities devote to improving student retention and shedding light on which of these policies and practices are associated with student retention.


Faculty and Practitioners' Views of Working, Commuting Students: Aligning Perspectives for Academic Success (paper)(PowerPoint slides)
Mary Ziskin, Desiree Zerquera, & Vasti Torres
2010 ASHE Annual Conference, Indianapolis, IN

Reports findings from interviews and focus groups at three postsecondary institutions in metropolitan northwest Indiana examining faculty and practitioner perceptions of the experiences of working students and of the roles of faculty and practitioners and institutional policies and practices in the academic success of working, commuting students.


The Study of Institutional Practices Related to Student Persistence
Mary Ziskin, Don Hossler, & Sooyeon Kim
Published in the Journal of College Student Retention

Using literature and illustrations drawn from a pilot study of institutional policies and practices surrounding student retention, the authors explore the theoretical and methodological challenges entailed in the study of student retention. The discussion centers on two efforts to expand the theoretical base and scope for research in this area: one argues that colleges and universities are optimizers of cultural capital and the other critiques the narrowness of the frames that predominate student retention research.


How Colleges Organize Themselves to Increase Student Persistence: Four-Year Institutions
Published by the College Board and available at the College Board Advocacy website at:

Most of the relevant research on this crucial issue has focused on the role of student characteristics and experience in persistence and graduation. This study examines the critical role of institutional policies and practices in student persistence and graduation and how that role develops and is enacted in institutions' efforts to boost these measures of student success.

How Colleges Organize Themselves to Increase Student Persistence: Four-Year Institutions
is highlighted in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education: "A Full-Time Focus on Retention in New Orleans":


Enhancing Institutional and State Initiatives to Increase Student Success: Studies of the Indiana Project on Academic Success. Readings on Equal Education, Vol. 24
Edited by Don Hossler, Jacob P.K. Gross, & Mary Ziskin, with commentary from series editor, Edward P. St. John, who developed the IPAS model and was the project's founding director.
Available for order from AMS Press, Inc., at

This volume in the Readings on Equal Education series discusses the research and program evaluation activities of the Indiana Project on Academic Success (IPAS), a collaborative effort with postsecondary institutions that used action research to identify and evaluate interventions to enhance student success and that developed and employed a state student information database to facilitate education research and to inform campus- and state-level decision making. The authors reflect on lessons learned from the IPAS initiative and examine its impact on participating institutions and individuals.


Getting Serious About Institutional Performance in Student Retention: Research-Based Lessons on Effective Policies and Practices
Don Hossler, Mary Ziskin, & Jacob P.K. Gross
Published in the journal About Campus

Drawing on their experiences in and findings from two distinct but complementary research projects that focus on institutional efforts to enhance student persistence and graduation, the Indiana Project on Academic Success and the College Board Study on Student Retention, the authors share their growing understanding of how institutions organize themselves to enhance student persistence and the extent and effectiveness of those efforts. This article can contribute to the ongoing discussion among scholars and practitioners around the country about how to increase persistence and graduation and, by extension, to improve student learning.


Influence of an Identified Advisor/Mentor on Urban Latino Students' College Experience
Vasti Torres & Ebelia Hernandez
Published in the Journal of College Student Retention

With longitudinal data from Latino students at three urban universities, the authors use T-tests to compare the scale means between students that have identified an advisor or mentor and students that have not identified one. Results indicate consistently higher levels of institutional commitment, satisfaction with faculty, academic integration, cultural affinity, and encouragement among students with an advisor/mentor.


Research Methods

The Tuning Process in One Tuning USA Pilot State (handout)
Mary Ziskin, Indiana University; Haley Glover, Lumina Foundation for Education; Ken Sauer, Indiana Commission for Higher Education; & Afet Dadashova, Indiana University 2010 Ashe Annual Conference, Indianapolis,

A roundtable discussion on the Tuning Process, a consensus-based mechanism for making postsecondary education programs comparable, compatible, and transparent across contexts, and on the Tuning USA pilot study conducted in Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah.

Ignoring It Doesn't Make It Go Away: Addressing Issues of Missing Data in Institutional Research
Jacob P.K. Gross, Afet Dadashova, John Moore, & Mary Ziskin
2009 AIR Annual Forum, Atlanta, GA

Following a discussion of the persistent issues related to missing data in statistical research, the various types of missing data, and the strategies for dealing with missing data, this presentation outlines the design, results, recommendations, and statistical implications of a study that used expectation maximization (EM) algorithm imputation as a strategy for addressing missing data.