Some College, No Credential Report Finds Population of College Stop-outs Has Grown in All 50 States and D.C.
Report Series Seeks to Understand the Educational Trajectories of U.S. Adults Who Left College Without Receiving a Credential
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released its Some College, No Credential (SCNC) Student Outcomes: Annual Progress Report finding that the “some college, no credential” (SCNC) population — former students who stopped out without earning a credential — is up 3.6 percent from a year earlier while fewer SCNC students returned and completed a credential. This data suggests there’s an increasingly missed opportunity for states and institutions to reengage SCNC students.
Between July 2020 and July 2021, the U.S. added 1.4 million more SCNC students making the SCNC population now 40.4 million (July 2021), up from 39.0 million a year earlier, according to the report. All 50 states and D.C. experienced growth.
“Growing numbers of stop-outs and fewer returning students have contributed to the broader enrollment declines in recent years,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “While our latest enrollment report suggests this trend may be stabilizing, it is still uncertain when or how colleges might return to pre-pandemic levels. Today’s report can help states and institutions understand the avenues of success for returning SCNC students and identify areas of opportunity for better supporting their needs.”
Nearly all states (45) currently have a post-high school attainment goal to improve the average education levels of their residents and develop a highly educated workforce. The Some College, No Credential Student Outcomes report, made possible with support from Lumina Foundation, is an important resource to help states identify the level of opportunity for re-engaging SCNC students in the post-high school attainment pipeline.
Other key findings:
- Approximately 2.9 million (or 7.3% of the SCNC population) are “potential completers” who have already made at least two years’ worth of academic progress up until their last enrollment.
- Compared to the previous year, fewer SCNC students re-enrolled (864,800, -8.4%), earned a credential within one year after re-enrolling (53,300, -11.8%), or persevered into their second year of re-enrollment (508,700, -4.3%).
- Most SCNC students were younger than 35 at the last enrollment. Potential completers and recent stop-outs were relatively younger, with nearly a quarter of recent stop-outs under 20 (24.6%) and potential completers primarily in their early 20s (55.6%). These students are 3-4 times more likely than others to return and complete a credential.
- All regions experienced declines in completers within a year of re-enrolling, though 11 states saw slight growth. Short-term certificate earners increased more than associate and bachelor’s degree earners, with certificates accounting for 42.1 percent of all completers (up 7.1 points from a year ago). Certificates are most prevalent in the Midwest (50.6%), while bachelor’s degrees are prevalent in the Northeast (43.8%).
- Black SCNC students were less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree within one year of re-enrolling (22.8% of Black completers) compared to the national average of 25.7 percent. However, the gap disappeared for potential completers, with the share of bachelor’s degree earners among all Black completers on par with the national average (38.4% vs. 38.8%).
“Growing numbers of stop-outs and fewer returning students have contributed to the broader enrollment declines in recent years. Today’s report can help states and institutions understand the avenues of success for returning SCNC students and identify areas of opportunity for better supporting their needs.”
Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center