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Newsletter Article February 09, 2021

New Tools to Understand and Better Serve Those with Some College, No Degree

A 2019 study by the National Student Clearinghouse found that 36 million Americans had at least some college credits, but no completed degree. Those who attempt to return often find the transition back to college filled with numerous obstacles. Ascendium is funding research in our focus area to Streamline Key Learner Transitions that aims to help systems better support this learner population.

  • The Tennessee Board of Regents produced a working paper, From Reconnection to Graduation: Meeting the Needs of Returning Adult Students at Community Colleges. Their analysis found four distinct types of returning adult students, called “Reconnectors,” “The Returner,” “The Newcomer,” “The Comebacker” and “The Fresh Starter,” and recommends tailored support approaches for each group. Seventy percent of Reconnectors were from low-income backgrounds, which is the target population of Ascendium’s philanthropy. This is the first of four working papers from the Board of Regents project, Pathways to Success for Students With Some College, No Degree.
  • The Graduate! Network is conducting data analysis of its 8,400 learners, whom it calls “Comebackers.” The Graduate! Network reports that 78% of Comebackers are from low-income backgrounds. The goal of the analysis is to better understand Comebackers’ reasons for dropping out and returning. In a recent newsletter article, The Comeback Story: The Journey Continues, The Graduate! Network reports seeing troubling patterns likely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer Comebackers re-enrolled than expected this fall, based on 2019 patterns, and more have since withdrawn compared to 2019. Their full data analysis is due out in early summer.
  • Grantmakers for Education collaborated with The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) to create the SREE Summer Fellows Program that pairs graduate students with funders to explore topics of mutual interest. Summer fellow Taylor Odle produced a report, Strategies to Support Adult Learners and Some College, No Degree Students ‘To and Through’ a Postsecondary Credential, to better understand efforts underway and potential opportunities to help systems better support learners with some college credit, but no completed degree.

With the COVID-19 health crisis likely increasing the number of learners stopping out, it's more important than ever for institutions and systems to not only ease the transition back to college for these learners, but to help them persist to completion.

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