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More Than 39 million Americans Have Some College, No Credential, According to New Research

California, Texas, New York, and Illinois Combined Produce More Than a Third of These Students

HERNDON, VA(MAY 10, 2022) – More than 39 million Americans have some college, but no credential, according to a new report released today by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The “some college, no credential (SCNC)” population is up 3.1 million from nearly 36 million previously reported in 2019.

California, Texas, New York, and Illinois combined account for more than a third of the nation’s SCNC individuals. Arizona encountered the steepest net increase with more than 86,400 SCNC students. Only Nebraska and Connecticut did not experience any net growth in SCNC learners out of all the states.

According to the report, “Some College, No Credential Student Outcomes Annual Progress Report – Academic Year 2020/21, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 944,000 Americans aged 18 to 64 with some college, no credential re-enrolled during the academic year 2020/21, and more than 60,000 earned their first-ever postsecondary credential, including more than 18,000 bachelor’s degrees. Furthermore, 61.1% of those who re-enrolled in 2019/20 either persevered into the second year or attained a credential within a year of re-enrolling.

“These outcomes indicate the scale of opportunity that the SCNC population represents for efforts to raise the level of postsecondary education attainment in the U.S.,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Moreover, at a time when most colleges are still reeling from historic enrollment declines during the pandemic, the continued health of higher education institutions, and their ability to meet the needs of future students, may depend on their success at re-engaging SCNC learners.”

Low student success rates are widespread in American higher education. More than 25% of college freshmen do not return for their second year, including 41% of those who started at a community college, according to the Research Center in 2021. The nation’s six-year completion rate is 62.2%, as of January 2022.

Other “Some College, No Credential” report specifics include:

  • Black, Latinx, and Native American learners are over-represented among the SCNC population, relative to their shares of currently enrolled undergraduate students.
  • 48 states and D.C. experienced a net growth of SCNC student numbers. Arizona encountered the steepest net increase with more than 86,400 students or 15%.
  • Although California, Texas, New York, and Illinois account for more than a third of the nation’s SCNC students, Alaska shows the largest number of SCNC students per 1,000 currently enrolled undergraduates.
  • Only two states, Nebraska and Connecticut, did not experience growth, a net decrease of 250 SCNC students or -0.1%, and a decline of 1,200 SCNC learners or -0.3%, respectively.
  • SCNC students who stopped out of multi-state institutions or primarily online institutions showed the second fastest rate of net growth and increase of more than 315,000 or 13.7%. (These are not included in individual state counts; see more information about these institutions in the report’s methodology.)
  • During the academic year 2020/21, 944,200 SCNC students re-enrolled and 60,400 earned their first-ever postsecondary credential. An additional 531,700 students were still enrolled after re-enrolling the previous year. These outcomes reference SCNC students aged 18 to 64.
  • About 62% of the 944,200 students changed institutions upon re-enrolling, and 67% of those students who did change institutions also commonly crossed institution sectors. Re-enrolling in a community college after last attending a community college was the most common pathway for SCNC re-enrollees, 363,400 students or 38.5%.
  • 70% of the 60,400 completers obtained their credential from a public institution, either two- or four-year. Private, nonprofit four-year institutions had the highest perseverance rates, 64.8%, while community colleges had the lowest, 50.2%.
  • Women outnumbered men in re-enrollment, credential earning, and perseverance. The share of re-enrollees among minority women was substantially higher than men: 63.5% versus 34.6%.
  • Associate degrees were the most common credential earned by Latinx students, 42.5%. Black students were most likely to have completed a certificate, 42.7%.
  • Asian and White students persevered at rates higher than other groups (61.2% and 57.6%, respectively compared to Latinx (55.0%), Black (51.4%), and Native American (51.1%) students).
  • SCNC students’ success and progress outcomes are available for all 50 states and D.C. in the data dashboard and data appendices.

In October 2019, the United States saw nearly 1 million former students, in just five years, return to postsecondary education and earn their first undergraduate credential, according to the report, “Some College, No Degree: A 2019 Snapshot for the Nation and 50 States.” In the report, the Research Center identified 36 million adults who had some postsecondary experience but had yet to earn any type of credential and were no longer enrolled. In 2014, the Research Center released the first report in this series.

The “Some College, No Credential” report series, with support from Lumina Foundation, seeks to understand the educational trajectories of millions of U.S. adults who left postsecondary education without receiving a postsecondary credential and are no longer enrolled. As the third in a series, the SCNC report quantifies the SCNC population growth over time and identifies the levels of opportunity within each state for re-engaging SCNC students in the postsecondary attainment pipeline.

The SCNC report introduces three new metrics for tracking progress among SCNC students annually:

  • “Re-Enrollment” after a stop-out
  • Completion of “First Credential”
  • “Perseverance” as indicated by continuous enrollment beyond first re-enrollment.

The Research Center provides these outcomes both for the nation and by state, with details on student subgroups categorized by gender, age, and race/ethnicity.

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.

The Research Center currently collects data from more than 3,600 postsecondary institutions, which represent 97 percent of the nation’s postsecondary enrollments in degree-granting institutions, as of 2019. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit https://nscresearchcenter.org.

Media contact: media@studentclearinghouse.org



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