Number of Students With Some College, No Credential Grows: Report
- More than 40 million students had some college but no credential as of July 2021, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
- Students largely came from community colleges and tended to return to the same community college they last attended when heading back to school.
- The report highlighted racial disparities among students who went back to school, with Black and Latino/a students less likely to earn a degree within a year of returning.
- The report notes "an increasingly missed opportunity for states and institutions to re-engage with SCNC students even as the SCNC population is growing."
There were more than 40 million students with some college experience but no credential as of July 2021, according to a new report, and community colleges were those students' top choice when re-enrolling.
Community colleges were the most common type of institution for last enrollment, re-enrollment and first credential attainment for students with some college but no credential (SCNC), according to a recent National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report. That report found a large increase in the number of students with some college but no credential — rising to 40.4 million in July 2021 from 39 million in July 2020.
The report notes that the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact the number of students who stopped out of college without earning a credential between 2020 and 2021, although it also describes "an increasingly missed opportunity for states and institutions to re-engage with
SCNC students even as the SCNC population is growing."
The number of some college, no credential students who re-enrolled, finished a credential, or continued into their second year of college enrollment also declined, according to the report. More than half of students who stopped out last attended a community college — and that's also where they preferred to return. Students with some college but no credential were most likely to return to the same community college they last enrolled in, according to the report.
"Growing numbers of stop-outs and fewer returning students have contributed to the broader enrollment declines in recent years," National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Executive Director Doug Shapiro said in a release. "While our latest enrollment report suggests this trend may be stabilizing, it is still uncertain when or how colleges might return to pre-pandemic levels. Today's report can help states and institutions understand the avenues of success for returning SCNC students and identify areas of opportunity for better supporting their needs."
The report also highlighted racial disparities and barriers for students of color, who are overrepresented among students with some college and no credentials: Black students with some college but no credential were less likely to earn a bachelor's degree within a year of re-enrolling compared to the national average.
Of Black "completers," or students who earned a degree or credential within a year of re-enrollment, 22.8% earned a bachelor's degree compared to the national average of 25.7%.
That disparity was much less significant when it came to students the report categorized as "potential completers," or those who have already made at least two years of academic progress before stopping out. The national average for potential completers earning a degree within a year was 38.8%, and the average for Black potential completers was 38.4%.
Latino/a students faced barriers as both potential completers and overall, with just 17.2% of all completers earning a bachelor's degree within a year of re-enrollment, and 29.6% of those categorized in the report as potential completers.
BestColleges previously reported that half of stopped-out community college students said in a recent New America survey that they were "a little or not likely" to enroll in a community college again.
Colleges have sought out stopped-out students to combat ongoing enrollment declines in recent years. The University of California recently designated more than $4.85 million in state funding to help stopped-out students finish their degrees, BestColleges previously reported.