Colleges Look to Re-Engage Stopped-Out Students

As of July 2020, there were 39 million students who left higher education without receiving a credential.

Published September 2, 2022

Edited by Raneem Taleb-Agha
Colleges Look to Re-Engage Stopped-Out Students
Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Contributor / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

  • The University of California system launched a $4.85 million effort to help stopped-out students finish degrees.
  • In Ohio, a partnership of universities and community colleges is tying in debt forgiveness for stopped-out students who return to college.
  • There were more than 39 million stopped-out students nationwide as of July 2020, according to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report.

As college enrollment continues to decline, some institutions are looking to turn the tide by re-enrolling students who didn't finish their degrees.

California has the highest number of stopped-out students in the country, at more than 6.3 million, according to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report. College officials in the state are spending millions to re-engage with those students and help them finish their degrees.

The University of California (UC) recently designated more than $4.85 million in state funding to help stopped-out students finish their degrees or get a certification, according to a press release. Those efforts center around a new "UC Degree Completion Program" partnership between UC Riverside and UC Davis.

The partnership comes after the UC Santa Barbara and UC Merced Extension campuses launched their own programs aimed at engaging stopped out students.

"Students who qualify may receive financial assistance for application fees and may be eligible for federal financial aid once they are readmitted to a UC campus," Marie C. Martin, the director of academic quality, integrity, and assessment at UC Riverside University Extension, said in the release.

Martin said the new program is "two-fold" in that it aims to both help students finish their degrees and advance their careers.

The Clearinghouse report found that, as of July 2020, there were 39 million students who left higher education without receiving a credential. California, together with Texas, New York and Illinois, accounted for more than a third of the country's students with some college but no credential, also known as SCNC students.



That report also found, however, that hundreds of thousands of those students are re-enrolling. According to the report, roughly 944,200 students re-enrolled during the 2020-2021 academic year, and another 531,700 were still enrolled after re-enrolling the previous year.

But the report also noted that the re-enrollment trends haven't been equitable.

"Even though traditionally underserved minorities are overrepresented among SCNC students today relative to the overall undergraduate student body, which is a result of higher stopout rates, Asian and White SCNC students who re-enrolled persevered at a higher rate than Latinx, Black, and Native American SCNC students," the report reads.

UC Riverside's own student data analysis showed that, of 6,030 students who were in an undergraduate program at the school between 2008 and 2020 and left in good standing without completing a degree, 76% came are "first-time freshmen and transfer students who come from under-represented minorities," and 48% were first-generation students.

The University of California system isn't alone in its efforts to re-engage stopped out students. A group of Northeast Ohio colleges, with the support of nonprofit groups and the Ohio Department of Higher Education, recently launched the Ohio College Comeback Compact in a bid to re-engage students.

The joint effort between both universities and community colleges launched in August and began contacting roughly 15,000 students who left school without a degree, according to a Youngstown State University press release.

That effort includes a debt forgiveness aspect: Students will be eligible for up to $5,000 in debt forgiveness as they work toward their degree, according to the release.

Participating colleges include Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Kent State University, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, Stark State College, the University of Akron, and Youngstown State University.

"Ohio companies need educated workers, and that need is growing with the unprecedented number of multinational companies moving to our state," Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner said in a release. "The goal of the Ohio College Comeback Compact is to encourage adults to return to college to finish degrees so they can advance their careers in our growing economy."