Each year, thousands of college students in the United States stop out, or pause, their studies. Although some of these students return, others never go back to complete their credential or degree. These near-completers tend to be students of color, students who have dependents, or students who face unmet financial needs or other hardships. While a number of postsecondary initiatives focus on re-enrolling near-completers and supporting them once they are back in school, there is little systematic documentation detailing these efforts or rigorous research demonstrating their efficacy.
To address this research gap, members of the College Completion Network’s Lead team, Accelerated Pathways team, and Completion Grants team are conducting a policy and practice scan to increase the field’s understanding of the types of strategies institutions of higher education use to recruit near-completers and support their achievement once they have re-enrolled. The study will consist of a series of website scans and focus groups. In the first phase, the research team will systematically search college websites to document the policies and practices used to recruit, re-enroll, and support near-completers. In the second phase, the team will conduct focus groups with college leaders selected from a nationally representative sample of community colleges and broad-access 4-year colleges using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. In addition, the team will conduct focus groups at a purposive sample of schools that engage in state-of-the-art approaches to supporting students’ certificate and degree completion and that demonstrate a track record of student success.
The research team will use general qualitative inquiry to investigate the policies and practices the institutions use to recruit, re-enroll, and engage near-completers, as well as the evidence supporting those efforts. The team will then identify any promising strategies that could be evaluated more rigorously to inform higher education practitioners and policymakers.
Study period: 2021–22
This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305H170085 to American Institutes for Research (AIR).