With stopped out adults returning, where should you focus?

Colleges seeking to enroll SCNC adults may have the best luck with what the Clearinghouse defines as potential completers: students with at least two years’ worth of full-time equivalent enrollment in the last decade.

Higher education in 2022-23 won back over 943,000 adults who previously stopped out, a 9.1% increase over the previous academic year, according to the latest “Some College, No Credential” (SCNC) report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

As encouraging as the numbers were to Clearinghouse Executive Director Doug Shapiro, he also noted higher education’s steep uphill climb. The number of some-college, no-credential adults that institutions recovered represents a mere 2.6% of the total SCNC adult population, which stands at 36.8 million as of July 2022. This number also jumped up 2.9% from the previous year.

“Higher education regularly generates more students leaving school without a credential than returning to finish one,” Shapiro said in a press release, “which is both a persistent challenge and a continuing opportunity for the system to improve and grow.”

Men and Hispanic, Black, and Native American students are disproportionately represented among the overall SCNC population. On the other hand, women and White and Asian re-enrollees are more likely to complete a credential in the first year or persevere into a second year of enrollment. However, adults who stopped out between January 2021 and July 2022 continue to be younger and more female than the overall SCNC population.

According to the Lumina Foundation’s Stronger Nation initiative, the national attainment rate for 25 to 64-year-olds currently stands at 54.3%, which drags behind targets across 40 states that set postsecondary attainment goals between 55% and 70%.

This is the first SCNC report that specifically focuses on working-age adults, which the Clearinghouse defines as adults under 65.

Targeting potent SCNC prospects

Colleges seeking to enroll SCNC adults may have the best luck with what the Clearinghouse defines as “potential completers”: students with at least two years’ worth of full-time equivalent enrollment in the last decade. This group comprises nearly 8%, or about 2.8 million, of the entire SCNC population, earning credentials at nearly twice the rate of their peers. Furthermore, they earn more associate’s and bachelor’s degrees within two years.

Recent stopouts (adults who stopped out between January 2021 and July 2022) may not be the highest-yield crop. While they were five times more likely to re-enroll across the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years, they are slightly less likely to persevere compared to the general SCSC population and were not significantly more likely to earn a credential within two years.

Only 37.2% of re-enrollees are returning to the same school. Public two-year colleges and primarily online institutions are the clear favorites for re-enrollees switching schools upon reentry. This poses a problem, considering both have a track record for lower persistence and credential earning rates than four-year public, private and for-profit schools.

How are recent college re-enrollees faring?

Fifty-seven percent of the 864,800 SCNC students who re-enrolled in 2021-22 persevered into the following academic year. About 5%, or about 39,900, earned a credential.

In the class’ second year of re-enrollment, an additional 80,000 students earned a credential. Combining both years, 13.9% percent earned a credential, which was identical to the rate for 2020-21 re-enrollees.

Sectors with the best combined two-year credential earning rate were:

  1. Public four-year: 15.8%
  2. Private 4-year: 15.6%
  3. For-profit four-year: 15.6%

More from UB: Credit for prior learning is showing value. Should your college care?


Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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