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More Than 36 Million Adults Under 65 Now Have Some College Experience but No Earned Credential

New Report Finds 2.9% Rise In the Number of Some College, No Credential Adults

HERNDON, VA – (JUNE 6, 2024) – The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports that the number of Americans aged 18 to 64 who have some college experience, but no credential rose 2.9% between July 2021 and July 2022 and now stands at 36.8 million.

The Some College, No Credential Student Outcomes: Annual Progress Report released today finds that relatively few “some college, no credential” (SCNC) adults are re-engaging with higher education. More than 943,000 SCNC adults re-enrolled in the 2022-23 academic year. While this number indicates increasing re-enrollment (+78,300) compared to the previous year, it represents only 2.6% of the SCNC population. As a result, the majority of SCNC adults remain out of college with no degree or other postsecondary credential.

“It is encouraging to see an increase in the number of students re-enrolling this year, largely reversing the decline that we observed in last year’s report,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Higher education regularly generates more students leaving school without a credential than returning to finish one, however, which is both a persistent challenge and a continuing opportunity for the system to improve and grow.”

Re-engaging those who stop out remains an ongoing challenge and a priority for the 40 states that have set ambitious postsecondary attainment goals. It will also help increase the national attainment rate, which currently stands at 54.3% for those 25 to 64 years old, according to Lumina Foundation’s A Stronger Nation initiative.

This report aims to provide timely insights into the SCNC population, offering state leaders and policymakers accurate data on their current status, along with tracking progress and outcome measures for SCNC students.

In addition to describing who makes up the SCNC population and how it has changed since the Research Center’s last SCNC report, this update pays particular attention to Recent Stopouts, who joined the SCNC population after stopping out between January 2021 and July 2022, and Potential Completers, who have recent histories of at least two years’ worth of full-time equivalent enrollment. The report also focuses on SCNC re-enrollment in the 2022-23 academic year, and first-year credential earning. It provides new updates on continued enrollment and second-year credentials earned by SCNC re-enrollees in the 2021-22 academic year, who were first reported on last year. Finally, it investigates the advantages of Potential Completers, with their longer enrollment histories prior to stopout, compared to the overall SCNC population.

Key highlights from the report:

  • The SCNC population under 65 stood at more than 36.8 million at the end of July 2022, an increase of 2.9% from the previous year.
  • Pandemic-related enrollment declines at community colleges led to fewer Recent Stopouts between January 2021 and July 2022 compared to the same period a year prior.
  • Declines in Recent Stopouts did little to impact the SCNC population, which increased in nearly all states.
  • The SCNC population continues to be less White and more male than the overall undergraduate population.
  • Recent Stopouts, however, continue to be younger and more female than the overall SCNC population.
  • SCNC student re-enrollment increased in the 2022-23 academic year (+9.1%).
  • Primarily online institutions (POIs) are an increasingly popular destination sector for students who switch schools at re-enrollment, although students re-enrolling at POIs have the lowest credential earning rate of all sectors after two years.
  • Men and Hispanic, Black, and Native American students are disproportionately represented among the overall SCNC population, while 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.
  • Potential Completer re-enrollees earn credentials at nearly twice the rate of their SCNC peers and earn more associate and bachelor’s degrees within two years.

To read the Some College, No Credential Student Outcomes: Annual Progress Report, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org/some-college-no-credential/.

This annual progress report was produced with support from Lumina Foundation.

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more, visit nscresearchcenter.org.


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