By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Barack Obama started at Occidental College in 1979, then transferred to Columbia University, earning his degree in 1983. Mitt Romney began at Stanford in 1965, left for two years and then graduated from Brigham Young University.

Both were not what are called “traditional” students, finishing high school, going straight to college – both are examples of “students who don’t count.” Of those who started in 2009, almost half don’t fit the federal definition of the US Education Department.

National data collection systems count only those who finish where they started in expected time – 4-6 years for a bachelor’s degree and 2-3 years for an associate’s.

Moving, military service, shifting goals, and personal reasons interrupt lives of millions who graduate sometimes years and years later.

Find a report on college completion in The Chronicle of Higher Education, part of a new web site sharing data from 3800 institutions of higher education.