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Report Challenges Colleges to Reach Out to Potential Degree Completers

Much of the attention on college completion is focused on the pathways of recent high school graduates, but a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center looks at Americans who have finished "some college" but not a degree.

Over the past 20 years, more than 31 million students enrolled in college, but never earned a degree or certificate prompting the clearinghouse to issue a report July 29 to provide a national view of these students.

It's a young group, with more than half of respondents aged 24 to 29. Another 40 percent were over 30, according to the Clearinghouse,  a Herndon-Va.-based research organization.

Nearly 35 percent of this population only attended college for a year or less.Those who enrolled for more than two semesters were often older, attended part-time and went to multiple schools.

The report identified four million "potential completers"—those with at least two or more years of academic progress. This group was equally divided between enrolling exclusively in two- and four-year institutions.

In the push for the country to lead the world in college graduates, nonprofit organizations are calling on schools to recruit students who are just shy of a degree to encourage them to re-enroll and finish.

The clearinghouse report suggests the "some college" population is diverse and outreach efforts should be tailored to the subsets of students based on their various ages and stages in life. There are also slightly more women who fall short of enough credits for a degree, which colleges should keep in mind when devising recruitment efforts, the report suggests. 

Both two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions should develop policies and programs for this group, including rethinking transfer policies and crafting programs in the evenings and weekend, the report concludes.

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