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As noted in the college’s vision statement, the number one priority at New River Community College is teaching and learning. In support of that process, the college establishes goals for student achievement and assesses the degree to which they have been met. Detailed information on the attainment of learning objectives is provided below.


Student Achievement at NRCC

In achieving its mission, New River Community College (NRCC) assumes a responsibility to meet both workforce development needs in the New River Valley and needs of students preparing to transfer to senior institutions. NRCC offers associate degrees in college transfer and occupational/technical programs as well as diplomas and certificates. Assessing student achievement is central to the development and maintenance of academic programs and special initiatives designed to support the academic programs. Most college evaluation and research activities are managed by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Research, which is staffed by a full-time, PhD-credentialed director and an assistant. Assessment activities that focus more specifically on academic programs and related learning outcomes are coordinated by the Office of the Associate Vice President for Student Learning. Evaluations conducted by the college include, but are not limited to, analyses of enrollment data; retention, graduation, course completion, and job placement rates; and state licensing examinations. These analyses include distance learning as well as traditional academic offerings. Data are shared on a regular basis with the members of the college president’s staff as well as the functional area managers’ group, which is made up of the managers of each of the college’s academic and business units. In this way, data do not merely reside in data repositories and bookshelves but are considered and used by the managers who can best use the information for improving college programs and services.


Scrutiny of enrollment data permits the college to identify characteristics of incoming as well as continuing students. By identifying groups of students with shared characteristics, the college is able to determine if there are achievement gaps among or between these groups and develop programs to better serve the identified student groups. Enrollment data are captured and categorized each semester in a series of analyses that provide basic demographic and program-level cluster enrollment data. The report “College Demographics Overall” provides a sample of the type of demographic reports generated to show enrollment patterns related to age, sex, enrollment status, financial aid status, jurisdiction, degree level, and race. The same types of reports are generated for a variety of program clusters: curricular, non-curricular, transfer, career and technical education, dual enrolled, non-dual enrolled, and financial aid.


Retention of students is analyzed as one indication of student achievement. Student retention data are gathered and scrutinized at the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) system level, permitting comparisons of retention rates among colleges (VCCS Student Retention Summary Fall 2011 - Fall 2012). More importantly, NRCC conducts internal assessments of student retention with detailed breakdowns of retention rates for key demographic and achievement variables that have been shown to be associated with retention directly and subsequent student success (Retention Analysis (all but dual-enrolled) through Fall 2012). These analyses provide detailed breakdowns for a variety of comparisons, including fall-to-fall, fall-to-spring, spring-to-fall, and academic year-to-subsequent fall. Retention rates for these periods are further broken out by jurisdiction in which the student resides, full-time/part-time status, whether the student receives financial aid, student grade point average, gender, ethnicity, and age group. Data are reported in both number and percentage of students from each group that are retained as well as the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) those students represent.


Understanding patterns and trends in graduation is also essential for measuring achievement and identifying potential challenges that may be impeding student achievement. A report is prepared annually that presents an analysis of five years of data describing graduates of NRCC (Report - Graduate Analysis - AY 2008-09 through 2012-13). This report identifies trends in graduation patterns by award type (associate of applied science, associate of arts and sciences, certificate, and diploma,) as well as by a variety of demographic and other student characteristics related to graduation. These characteristics include student age, gender, jurisdiction within which the student resides, whether the high school from which the student graduated was in the NRCC service region, whether the student received financial aid, whether the student ever took dual-enrollment courses at NRCC, cumulative grade point average, whether the student enrolled in developmental English or developmental math, and the number of years the student took to complete his/her first degree (including and excluding dual-enrollment activity in high school). These analyses are broken out not only by academic year but also by the term within the academic year for better understanding of graduation trends. Moreover, these breakouts (with the exception of term-by-term analysis) are generated for each program and award level.


Course completion and grading are related issues and are examined together at NRCC. Each term, reports detailing grade distributions across a variety of course characteristics are generated and provided to the vice president of instruction and student services, the division deans and the associate vice president for student learning. The sample report “Grade Distribution by Course and Section – Overall – Spring 2013” provides a breakout of each section of each course by the number and percent of each grade assigned, including withdrawals. Similar reports provide aggregate grade distribution for each division. Other reports permit the identification of course sections and/or instructors that have grade and completion patterns that lie outside of the norms and expected levels of performance. Moreover, the coding of class sections with these data permit the comparison of course performance patterns for distance-education versus in-person course sections, day versus evening courses, dual-enrollment courses as a group, non-dual-enrollment courses as a group, and dual-enrollment versus non-dual-enrollment course outcomes.


Job placement is another measure of student achievement that is routinely examined. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) reports on the wages earned by graduates of colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These data are provided to the colleges in a series of web pages (WG01: Wages of Graduates, Degree Levels by Institution; WG02: Wages of Graduates, List Programs by Institutions, WG03: Institutions Program-specific Data; WG03M: Matrix of Programs for Which Wage Data are Available, by Institution). Furthermore, the college conducts a survey of graduates about 18 months following graduation. This survey provides data on student job placement, including information regarding employment relevancy to the graduation award, the extent to which the NRCC program helps graduates perform in the workplace, and salary (Report - Graduate Follow-up - NonNursing - 09-10 Grads).


In addition to job placement, student transfers to (and subsequent graduations from) other colleges, especially four-year colleges and universities, are reviewed as important measures of student achievement. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) reports on transfers to colleges within Virginia. These data reports lie behind a password-secured firewall, and for that reason NRCC cannot provide live links to the data. In lieu of these links, NRCC has provided exemplar pdf printouts of the web pages to show the types of data that are available in these reports (SCHEV - Recent Graduates Enrolling the Following Fall; SCHEV - Fall Transfer Activity Matrix Details_Radford U). More detailed analyses are conducted locally at NRCC and examine the transfer and award activity of students once they have left NRCC without a degree for a year or more. These analyses explore transfer and award activity of students who left NRCC (without receiving a degree) since the 2005-2006 academic year (reported by academic year). Unlike the SCHEV analyses, these analyses report on colleges and universities in both Virginia and outside Virginia using the National Student Clearinghouse data set. Moreover, these analyses report on both two-year as well as four-year transfers and awards (together and separately). To better understand transfer and external award patterns, these data are disaggregated by a variety of characteristics that are important for understanding and developing programs for improving achievement. These characteristics include gender, poverty status, financial aid status, first-generation college status, and whether the student had taken a developmental math or English course (NRCC Students who left but did not graduate - Transfer and Award data from Ntl Student Clearinghouse).


The assessment of student achievement is a high priority at NRCC with a variety of special analyses conducted regularly. Moreover, these types of studies are a high priority at the VCCS system level, and a range of student achievement studies (called “Student Success Snapshots”) are conducted there that provide data for the colleges to examine. VCCS-system-level analyses frequently lead to more detailed analyses that are conducted at NRCC to provide a more detailed understanding of the results of the original analyses. Examples of some of the special achievement studies conducted at NRCC in recent years include the impact of poverty and first generation status on student success as measured by graduation, transfer, or continuation of studies at NRCC. These analyses have been expanded further to better understand the impact of dual-enrollment courses on student success. Findings have had significant impact on maintaining and reinvigorating dual-enrollment activities within our region. (“Dual-Enrollment Success – NewRiver,” “Dual-Enrollment Success – NewRiver By HS District”). More recent local studies have examined the impact developmental placement and developmental course activities have on student success outcomes and the impact of full-time versus part-time enrollments on student success, including detailed examination of bachelor degree and higher degree outcomes of NRCC students (Student Success Analysis with NCH Awards data by Placement Test AND Developmental Class outcome; Report - Student Success Analysis - NCH Award update). In addition to these student success analyses/reports, NRCC examines the effects of academic and student support initiatives on student achievement. These analyses vary considerably in their focus and depth, depending in large part on the nature of the intended program outcomes and program scope.


The college also considers graduates’ performance on state licensing examinations when evaluating student achievement. NRCC has well-established associate degree and practical nursing programs. The pass rate for first-time testers consistently matches or exceeds the state average. Program faculty members integrate results on licensing exams into program review and assessment activities and use the results to improve instruction and student learning.

Graduates of NRCC Nursing Programs:
Five-Year Trends in Licensure Pass Rates for First-Time Testers

Associate Degree Nursing: RN Licensure

Year Pass Rate for First-Time Testers
2012 92.1%
2011 97.5%
2010 85.4%
2009 85.4%
2008 91%

Practical Nursing: LPN Licensure

Year Pass Rate for First-Time Testers
2012 100%
2011 100%
2010 100%
2009 100%
2008 100%



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