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Colleges overlook the potential of students who didn’t finish their degree, study says

Colleges overlook the potential of students who didn’t finish their degree, study says


Emma Gallegos
February 20, 2024
A new study detailing how California colleges often overlook the value of students who drop out explains what colleges can do to help these students, called “comebackers,” complete their degree successfully.
Instead of simplifying the return for these students, colleges often complicate the process and create obstacles, according to a report, “From Setback to Success: Meeting Comebacker Students Where They Are by California Competes, a nonpartisan policy and research organization.
“If you didn’t make it, it’s your fault. If you want to come back, good luck to you,” said Su Jin Jez, CEO of California Competes, about the convoluted process that comebackers go through to re-enroll in college.
Based on interviews with over 50 students who returned to college and successfully completed their degree at Sacramento State and Shasta College, the report released on Feb. 5 identified factors that may impede a student’s attempt to return to college, including owing for overdue library books and parking, having to redo the entire enrollment process and being disqualified for financial aid because of poor grades from years prior.
More than 6 million Californians have attended college without ever receiving a degree, according to a 2021 report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Jez said that reaching out to these students is an equity issue because many comebackers are low-income people or people of color.
Overlooking these students has major implications, not just for students themselves but for the state’s economy, the report states. Students without a degree or certificate may not be able to make progress in the workplace, and in turn, employers won’t be able to find qualified workers. Jez said reaching these students can stimulate economic growth.
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