Almost 1 in 5 Americans who attend college never receive a degree. In 2015, there were more than 35 million such Americans aged 25 years and older who had some college, but no degree leaving them with debt after investing considerable time and resources into their education.

“In Utah, the percent of adults with some college and no degree is 27 percent, which is about 6 percent higher than the national average,” said Jason Taylor, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah. “The state has launched a couple initiatives to address the issue, but there is more to be done.”

Taylor, along with his colleagues at the Institute for Higher Education Policy recently released a brief to provide institutions and states with recommendations on how to help students receive associate degrees, to outline the degree reclamation imperative and to offer a vision for scaling this strategy across the country to reach significantly more students.

Degree reclamation offers a combination of evidence-based and equity-focused strategies to help institutions support potential completers in attaining degrees that are meaningful to their education and career goals. Two national degree reclamation efforts, Project Win-Win and Credit When It’s Due, have already led to “reclaiming” more than 20,000 new associate degrees. Neither program is available in Utah.

“It is time for colleges and universities to re-engage former students and help them finish the degree they started. Some former students may have already completed their associate degree, but the institution never conferred it. Degree reclamation strategies help institutions identify these students and confer degrees that were earned. Institutions heavily invest in recruiting new students, but if students leave without completing their degree, many schools do not invest in outreach to re-engage those students to help them complete their degree,” said Taylor.

Degree reclamation also has the potential to address existing inequities and disparities in degree attainment given that it targets a diverse group of individuals and is intentional about efforts to engage underrepresented students

“Research shows that students of color, low-income students, first-generation students and adult learners have high college attrition rates and are more likely to have some college and no degree. Degree reclamation can help reduce inequities in degree attainment by specifically re-engaging and re-enrolling these former students” added Taylor.

The full brief, “The Potential of Degree Reclamation: A Path to Reclaiming the Nation’s Unrecognized Students and Degrees,” can be found online.

About the Institute for Higher Education Policy
The Institute for Higher Education Policy is an independent, nonprofit organization that is dedicated to increasing access and success in postsecondary education around the world. Established in 1993, the organization, based in Washington, D.C., uses unique research and innovative programs to inform key decision makers who shape public policy and support economic and social development. IHEP’s website, ihep.org, features an expansive collection of higher education information available free of charge and provides access to some of the most respected professionals in the fields of public policy and research.

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