Student Achievement

Lee University evaluates success with respect to student achievement according to our stated mission to help students develop knowledge, appreciation, understanding, ability, and skills which will prepare them for responsible Christian living in a complex world.

The criteria we use to evaluate student success include graduation, retention, job placement rates, general education testing, major field tests, and nationally normed self-report studies. Data analysis is part of our Institutional Effectiveness process, as well, and includes review by appropriate faculty and administrative staff. Through these practices, we ensure student success that is appropriate for an institution of higher learning.

Graduation and retention rates are the most common measures of student success among higher education institutions. Lee University’s benchmarks are based on national comparisons of similar institutions with high acceptance rates and a select group of peer institutions who are slightly more selective yet have cultural similarities within our state.

The wider mission of Lee, discussed in the Extended Statement of Institutional Purpose, involves serving a wide variety of students from different backgrounds and with varying levels of academic ability. This includes underprepared students as well as high-achieving students. Because of this, our benchmarks are based on the national averages for each criterion, where available. In 2014, Lee University established a goal to increase the 6-year graduation rate of entering freshmen cohorts to 55% by fall 2020. The minimum threshold for graduation rates was set at 50%.

  • Current 6-year graduation rate as of Fall 2020: 62%
  • Average 6-year graduation rate (past 5 years) as of Fall 2020: 56%

Our most recent rates exceed our five-year averages and are comparable with national rates for four-year institutions with high acceptance rates (NCES 2019 shows the national six-year average graduation rate [2012 cohort] as 46 percent for four-year nonprofit institutions with acceptance rates of 90 percent or more).

Disaggregated Graduation Rates

Disaggregated graduation rates are also computed by gender, ethnicity, and for low-income status on an annual basis.  The data show the last three cohorts’ graduation rates for each of the categories mentioned above, as well as national comparisons from the most current data from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES).  In virtually all comparisons, Lee University five-year averages meet or exceed national standards, which as stated above, forms our benchmark comparison goals for graduation rates.  View our disaggregated graduation rates through the provided link.

Disaggregated Graduation Rates

Similar to our graduation rates, the supporting goal of increasing retention rates of full-time, first-year students is also an indicator of student success. The wider mission of Lee, discussed in the Extended Statement of Institutional Purpose, involves serving a wide variety of students, from different backgrounds and with varying levels of academic ability. This includes underprepared students as well as high-achieving students. Because of this, our benchmarks are based on the national averages for each criterion, where available. Based upon our historic 5-year rate in 2014 we established a minimum retention threshold of 73% with a goal of reaching 78% by fall 2020. Our most recent rates exceed our 5-year averages and are comparable with national rates for 4-year institutions with high acceptance rates. (NCES 2019 shows the 2017-2018 national retention rate as 72.6 percent for first-time degree-seeking undergraduates at four-year nonprofit institutions with acceptance rates of 90 percent or more.)

  • Freshman retention rate Fall 2019 to Fall 2020: 80%
  • Average freshman retention rate (past 5 years): 79%

View Peer Institution data from the National Center of Education Statistics

Division of Adult Learning-Lee Online

Our Division of Adult Learning (DAL) is designed to serve a much more transient student population who often enter our distance learning programs with college credit from numerous prior learning experiences.  Our minimum threshold for retaining DAL students from one semester to the next (removing students who graduate) is set at 65% and is based on historical retention rates from this population.  Our goal is to increase this number to 75% by improving student success and support services.

The most recent retention rates show improvement in retention, and the recent addition of student success coaches for DAL students is expected to help us reach our goal of 75% by 2025.

Distance Learning Retention Rates
Term Fall 2017 to Spring 2018 Fall 2018 to Spring 2019 Fall 2019 to Spring 2020
Retention Rate 67% 68% 71%


Job placement rates are collected from graduating seniors and 1- and 5-year alums. The Center for Calling and Career at Lee University conducts a survey of graduating seniors the month prior to graduation regarding employment status after graduation. Lee established a goal in 2014 to increase the job placement rate of graduating seniors from 53%, our minimum threshold, to our goal of 65% by fall 2020.

Over the past five years, the average rate for having received or accepted job offers prior to graduation or for continuing education has incrementally increased from 53% in 2013 to over 61% in 2020. Another 28% had applied for jobs and another 2% were volunteering or traveling after graduation. Of those who received or accepted job offers, 79% said the job was related to their career goals. According to the most recent Alumni Survey (2019-2020), by one year after graduation, 79% of one-year alumni (who responded) had some type of employment or service.

As an institution that values liberal arts education, Lee University is interested in general education competencies of graduating seniors. Annually, the institution uses a variety of assessment tools to measure these competencies. One commonly used measure of general education knowledge and skills is the ETS Proficiency Profile (formerly the Academic Profile). Lee has consistently scored above the national mean in total score and in subscale scores of different skill areas on the Proficiency Profile. Because of Lee’s diverse student population, the benchmark for standardized tests such as this is the national norm. Our goal is that our subscale scores and total score meet or exceed the national mean for both. The charts below display the most recent set of Lee scores with the national mean comparison and 5-year longitudinal data.

General Education Test Longitudinal Data

Division of Adult Learning

For the Division of Adult Learning, the most recent administrations of the Proficiency Profile yielded positive results. DAL students, on average, scored above the national mean for non- proctored administrations in total score and most sub-scores. While many adult learners bring their general education to Lee from other institutions, we still measure student performance for these students on nationalized examinations, and like our traditional undergraduates, our goal is that the adult learners meet or exceed national norms.

Division of Adult Learning Proficiency Profile Longitudinal Report

Most academic programs, where national major field tests are available, administer these tests as part of their annual outcomes assessment. Lee University participates in the following major field tests offered by ETS: Business, English (Literature), Mathematics, Music, Political Science, and Sociology and the following field exams offered by ACAT: Biology, Health Science, History, Human Development, and Psychology. The institution compares favorably with the national norms (Lee’s benchmark) for most areas. Just like our general education assessments, our goal is that average scores for each major field test meet or exceed national mean scores. One stand-out example of student success comes from the 2013-2014 administrations of the ACAT Major Field Test, where, on average, senior Biology students scored in the 92nd percentile range compared with their respective reference group.

Senior Major Field Test Longitudinal Data

Lee University tracks passage rates for programs with licensing examinations. These exams are a common metric of student achievement for accreditation organizations and our programs.  Lee often uses these pass rates as a means of assessing student learning outcomes in the assessment process and are compared with statewide pass rates for each content area. Minimum thresholds are established by the accrediting bodies for professional licensures since programs should meet the minimum standards of accreditation.  Goals are created for each licensure based upon the program requirements and accreditation standards.

Professional Licensure Passage Rates

Student engagement represents two critical features of collegiate quality. The first is the amount of time and effort students put into their studies and other educationally purposeful activities. The second is how the institution deploys its resources and organizes the curriculum and other learning opportunities to get students to participate in activities that decades of research studies show are linked to student learning.

Through its student survey, The College Student Report, the National Survey of Student Engagement or NSSE annually collects information at hundreds of four-year colleges and universities about student participation in programs and activities that institutions provide for their learning and personal development. The results provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college. To focus discussions about the importance of student engagement and to guide institutional improvement efforts, NSSE created 10 Engagement Indicators within four broad themes: Academic Challenge, Learning with Peers, Experiences with Faculty, and Campus Environment.

The table below compares average scores for Lee students with those in our comparison groups.

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