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CTE Research Review

Research Image_6.2013Research has shown time and again that finishing what you start in higher education is key to higher lifetime potential earnings, gainful employment and much more. Most researchers use the term, “some college” for students who enrolled in college but left without receiving a degree or certificate, but what does this enigmatic term really mean?

Though this category includes 31 million students over the past 20 years, little is known about the students themselves. The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) takes a closer look at who makes up this group with its new report, “Some College, No Degree: A National View of Students with Some College Enrollment, but No Completion”.

Through national data on enrollments over time and across institutions, NSC was able to dig deeper than most reports, which traditionally survey a representative sample of adults. By using data, NSC excluded those who earned degrees or certificates and analyzed the enrollment pathways of the “some college” population.

In particular, the report focuses largely on two groups of students: those who had enrolled in multiple institutions, and “potential completers” — those with at least two full academic years’ worth of college.

The NSC researchers believe that potential completers should be at the center of the discussion about improving postsecondary completion rates. They say that policies still need to be tailored to fit their needs as older students returning to education after a period of extended absence from the system.

Most potential completers tend to be between 24 and 29 years old. Although women are slightly more represented overall in this group, men somewhat outnumber women within the 24-29 age bracket who have been out of the higher education system for two to six years. More than one in four potential completers enrolled continuously or intermittently for seven years or longer and their enrollment histories are equally split among two- and four-year institutions. These demographics, the researchers say, have unique needs that educators and policymakers need to address to bring these students back into schools and get them to graduation.

To learn more about the “some college group” including important policy recommendations, be sure to check out the full report.

Andrea Zimmermann, State Policy Associate

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