Program / Department Persistence and Change of Majors

Bettina Hansel
Office of Institutional Research and Assessment
CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College
This is a chart that Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) has used for several years. A few years ago, we refined it, adding color and soliciting advice from our campus communications area. This is the version we plan to put in our upcoming edition.
The intent of the chart is to look at the extent to which our academic programs keep their majors, and where those students go when they do switch to another department. Changing majors is thought to impact length of time to degree and to cost students money if they take courses that are no longer part of their new major. Since all students must declare a major upon entry, we do not have any “undeclared majors” as in other schools. The chart tracks all new Freshman in Fall 2010 over the next three semesters. Unlike charts showing attrition by major, we tried to show where students went when they left their original major. So, for instance, almost 19% of the Accounting majors moved to Business. When the programs assess their outcomes, this information is useful in understanding their retention of majors. However, in order to show which majors attract students leaving one program, we’ve included students who stayed at BMCC for one, two, or three more semesters. Only students who don’t return after Fall 2010 show as drop-outs. Unfortunately, this chart can create the impression that our dropout rate is much lower than it is.
This graphic is put together by Liza Adams, BMCC Institutional Research Analyst, with help from Tom Volpe of BMCC’s Public Affairs department. It was submitted by Bettina Hansel, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment at BMCC. We are still looking for ways to improve it and welcome your suggestions for modifications.


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Total Comments: 3
Leslie posted on 6/10/2013 10:10 AM
Thank You for Sharing
Randy posted on 7/11/2013 1:46 PM
This chart is loaded with information. I see great value in it.

While I immediately saw that the colored boxes were the departments own "holding rate", I wonder how clear that is to people who don't use data often. Would they understand intuitively why the "focus box" keeps moving over a column? Do novice readers try to make sense of the data in the first column and mistakenly think that everyone except the first department has really low numbers?

I'm always trying to see charts the way people who don't build them will see them. Wouldn't it be fun to capture the eye movement of a first-time viewer of a chart like this?
Marie posted on 7/15/2013 9:33 AM
Thank you! I did something similar in Excel but didn't really see how to make it more "user-friendly" but the color-coding makes a big difference.