Research in Higher Education

, Volume 50, Issue 7, pp 691–714 | Cite as

Educational Attainment as Process: Using Hierarchical Discrete-Time Event History Analysis to Model Rate of Progress

  • Peter Riley BahrEmail author


Variables that address student enrollment patterns (e.g., persistence, enrollment inconsistency, completed credit hours, course credit load, course completion rate, procrastination) constitute a longstanding fixture of analytical strategies in educational research, particularly research that focuses on explaining variation in academic outcomes. However, nearly all measures of enrollment patterns are handicapped by untested assumptions about a more fundamental measure, namely students’ rate of progress. In this paper, I first explain how a variety of widely used measures of enrollment patterns are inextricably linked to students’ rate of progress. I then describe a method of modeling mathematically students’ rate of progress that employs hierarchical (multilevel) discrete-time event history analysis of repeated events. I conclude with an empirical example of the application of this method in which I test several hypotheses concerning students’ rate of progress through the remedial math sequence toward the outcome of college-level math competency. In addition to the utility of the method that is proposed here, the issues discussed in this paper have important practical implications for institutional research, particularly with respect to the use of the various measures of enrollment patterns to explain variation in students’ attainment.


Event history analysis Rate of progress Persistence Retention Attrition Dropout Inconsistency of enrollment Stopout Completed credit hours Course credit load Course completion rate Procrastination Remediation Remedial Developmental 



I am indebted to Tim Brown, Willard Hom, Myrna Huffman, Tom Nobert, Mary Kay Patton, and Patrick Perry of the California Community College Chancellor’s Office for their assistance with the data employed in this study. I thank Elisabeth Bahr for her assistance with the editing of this manuscript. Finally, I am grateful to John C. Smart and the anonymous referees of Research in Higher Education for their respective recommendations concerning improving this work. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2008 Forum of the Association for Institutional Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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