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Re-Enrolling Adults Who Dropped Out

December 19, 2019

For adults with some college credit but no degree, the challenge of balancing work with going to class is the most common reason they end up leaving college, according to a new report.

The report from the Strada Education Network and the Lumina Foundation is based on a survey that received responses from more than 42,000 adults between the ages of 25 and 64 who have stopped out or left college. Most adults (76 percent) in that age range without college degrees are in the workforce. Seventeen percent of those who left college without a degree said work-related issues were the main reason why, followed by financial pressures (12 percent) and personal problems (11 percent).

Still, many respondents said they would like to re-enroll in college. Younger people were more likely to say they plan to re-enroll, and all age groups said they would most likely enroll through an employer.

The inclination to re-enroll also varied by race. White respondents were less likely to say they would re-enroll within the next five years than black or Hispanic respondents. When broken down by occupation, respondents working in health care, construction and food preparation were most likely to say they would re-enroll through an employer. Those working in food preparation were much more likely to say they would re-enroll through a community college than the other nine top occupational categories that employ people with some college education but no degree.

Respondents were also asked about the quality of the academic advising they received in college. For both academic and career advising at four-year and two-year colleges, more than half of respondents rated their experiences as poor or fair, while more than half of students who completed their degrees rated their experiences as good or excellent.

The study also asked respondents what would make them more likely to re-enroll in courses or training. The largest impact on respondents' decision would be free community college tuition, according to the report, followed by courses that fit their schedules and guaranteed employment outcomes.

The report concludes that policy makers and education providers should take several steps to better serve adult learners. First, provide flexibility for students who are working and ensure that instructors know that most adult learners are juggling both college and work. Second, improve career and academic advising to ensure students can see how their education will connect to the workforce. Lastly, education providers should integrate employers into the strategies to improve enrollment and attainment for adult learners, as most respondents identified employers as the best pathway to re-enrolling.

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Madeline St. Amour

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