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Home » About the Clearinghouse » Media Center » Nearly 1 Million Students with Some College Returned and Earned a Degree Since 2014

“Some College, No Degree” Report Reveals 3.5 Million Americans with Some College Have High Potential to Return and Finish College

WASHINGTON, DC (Oct. 30, 2019)—The United States saw nearly one million former students, in just five years, return to postsecondary education and earn their first undergraduate credential, according to a new report, “Some College, No Degree: A 2019 Snapshot for the Nation and 50 States,” released today.

The research also reveals that an additional 1.1 million former students came back to college and are still enrolled in pursuit of a credential. Taken together , the combined success and progress rate for the 3.8 million returning “Some College, No Degree” students equates to 54 percent.

“The returning students and new completers identified in this report should be celebrated, but they have been mostly invisible until now,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The graduation rates commonly used to measure college performance in the U.S. counted them as dropouts when they left and ignored them when they returned, yet their successes today represent great benefits to themselves, their states, and the nation.”

“Building on the 2014 report, the Clearinghouse Research Center’s predictive profiles of potential completers still hold,” said Sally Johnstone, President, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. “This offers state planners critical information regarding who these learners are and how to create academic programs and services that can really meet their needs if they are to complete degrees to help states meet their future workforce demands.”

Implications for Higher Education:

  • The report points the way for colleges and states to identify the “Some College, No Degree” students, and where they are most likely to re-enroll and graduate, and what types of credentials they are likely to pursue.
  • 3.5 million adults are identified as potential completers today, those with at least two years’ worth of academic progress up until their last enrollment. These students are the most likely to return and finish college.
  • Returning adult students are more likely to re-enroll and complete in a different institution than their college or university of last enrollment, but in the same state.
  • These students are more likely to re-enroll in public institutions, and their most common destination is a local community college. Associate degrees and certificates are the most common credentials earned: 60% of all completers.

Other Highlights Include:

  • About 940,000 students identified as “Some College, No Degree” five years ago, in the Research Center’s first report, have since re-enrolled and are now new completers.
  • The number of Americans with “Some College, No Degree” who are no longer enrolled rose to 36 million, up from 29 million as of December 2013.
  • Ten percent of this population are “potential completers” who had already made at least two years’ worth of academic progress before stopping out. Six out of every ten potential completers are below age 30 (58 percent), which is more than two times as large as that of the overall “Some College, No Degree” population (23 percent).
  • Completers typically finished within two years of re-enrolling, without transferring or stopping out again.
  • States vary in the prevalence of potential completers in the overall “Some College, No Degree” population, from a low of five percent to a high of 15 percent.

Background on “Some College, No Degree” report series

The “Some College, No Degree” report series seeks to understand the educational trajectories of millions of Americans who left postsecondary education without receiving a degree or certificate. As the second in the series, this report offers insights about their subsequent enrollments and completions, based on the most current national data that tracks individual students over time, across institutions and across state lines since the first report was released in 2014.

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform students, educators and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational decisions leading to improved student outcomes. To learn more, visit