ISSUE

More than 32 million American adults have attended college and earned a significant number of credits toward a degree, but have not received a credential that reflects their effort. Having some college but no degree limits their employment opportunities and their ability to repay student loan debt. Low-income students, students of color and students who are the first in their family to attend college are disproportionately represented in this group.

SOLUTION

To help more adults with some college but no degree get the credentials they have earned or are close to completing, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) launched Degrees When Due (DWD) in 2018 with funding from Lumina Foundation and The Kresge Foundation. Through planning, training and coaching at colleges across the country, DWD promotes adult learner re-engagement and reverse transfer—two strategies that help more students gain associate degrees.

For students who are a few credits away from completion, colleges are reaching out to encourage them to complete their studies. Institutions using reverse transfer conduct degree audits to identify students who have already earned enough credits for a credential and retroactively award them degrees.

DWD’s degree reclamation strategies have led hundreds of institutions to make policy changes and helped more than 20,000 students receive associate degrees. To learn more about the impact of degree reclamation on students’ education and employment opportunities, DWD has developed a robust research agenda, which we are supporting with an $840,000 grant.

Over the course of this three-year project, researchers will analyze labor market outcomes for students who received an associate degree en route to their bachelor’s degree, disaggregating results for students from historically underrepresented groups. They will also evaluate potential employment or wage advantages for bachelor’s degree recipients who also have an associate degree, and those who stop out and do not complete their bachelor’s degree but receive their associate degree via reverse transfer.  

DWD will broadly disseminate findings from this work during the project and at its conclusion. We hope this research will shed light on the efficacy of degree reclamation as a strategy to improve completion and labor market outcomes. This project complements other work we support to make reverse transfer easier and aligns with our strategy to validate promising interventions.

QUESTIONS

Contact Senior Program Officer Toya Wall at twall@ascendiumeducation.org.