New Research Sheds Light on Students Near Completion Who Leave Before Graduation

Civitas Learning News

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AUSTIN, TX (May 9, 2017) – Today, Civitas Learning released an analysis of data from 53 institutions and more than 300,000 students revealing new insights into the national challenge of students leaving college before finishing their degrees.

The report found that, on average, almost one in five students who do not graduate have 75 percent or more of their credit threshold complete. One in 10 students who do not persist reach the 90 percent or more threshold. The report also found that colleges and universities have an immediate opportunity to improve graduation outcomes by targeting support services and outreach to near-completer students.

While many institutions focus their efforts to retain students on the critical first semesters of college, leaders at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, focused their intensive advising efforts on students close to finishing the degree. The goal was to ensure that late academic, life and logistics issues do not take them off track from completion.

“The insight about the importance of the final sprint to completion was an important discovery that led to major improvements in student success at Del Mar College,” said Dr. Mark Escamillia, Del Mar College President. “By focusing our advising outreach on students who completed 75 percent or more of the credit threshold for a degree, we were able to connect with students at the right moment and ensure they were prepared to cross the finish line, graduate and advance in their career. This approach resulted in a 34% increase in our graduation rates within one year.”

More than 30 million people in the United States have some college credit but no credential. Even more concerning, research suggests that about a quarter of Americans with student loan debt from college do not have a degree or certificate, and that, according to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of households headed by adults under the age of 40 who have only some college credit owe student debt. The vast majority – more than 60 percent, according to some estimates – of borrowers who default on their student loans did not graduate.

“While we know the first semesters are critical for ensuring a student starts strong, the end of the journey can be equally important and challenging. Our research has found that a significant numbers of these near-completers may actually be in good academic standing and quite close to the ultimate goal of earning a certification or degree,” said Dr. Mark Milliron, Civitas Learning Co-founder and Chief Learning Officer. “Put simply, to significantly improve student success rates, we need to use targeted advising and outreach to ensure that students get a strong finish, as well as a strong start.”

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