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A new report offers guidance to community college leaders seeking to re-enroll adult learners who earned academic credits but left college without a degree or credential.

The report, released today, was produced by InsideTrack, a nonprofit organization that helps institutions enroll students and improve academic outcomes through coaching. The report notes that community colleges lost almost 830,000 students nationally since spring 2020, according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data. Meanwhile, there are currently 39 million Americans who attended some college but never graduated. (This paragraph has been updated to correct the number of Americans who attended some college but never graduated.)

The report recommends college leaders first assess how prepared their institutions are for a re-enrollment campaign. For example, it encourages administrators to check that their campuses have enough enrollment management and advising staff to assist a possible influx of students returning to college.

The report also offers tips for tailoring marketing materials to adult learners, such as highlighting other credentials offered beyond degrees and emphasizing the connection between education and economic mobility, among other strategies. It also advises focusing limited outreach resources on the students most likely to re-enroll, which can include those with few credits left to graduate or those who only recently stopped out, and that colleges have a designated “first point-of-contact” that helps students devise a plan to re-enroll and follow through.

“Helping former students re-enroll and finish college is vitally important for the success and sustainability of community colleges,” Kai Drekmeier, co-founder and chief development officer of InsideTrack, said in a press release. “But more importantly, it’s vital for promoting opportunities for economic mobility and advancement for learners and their families. Through this research, we hope to advance the field’s understanding of not only the reasons why adult learners can benefit from personalized support, but also how community colleges can help them navigate a successful return to college.”