Texas Program Helps Adults With Some College, But No Degree

Some college, no degree. Near completers. Stop-outs. These are some of the descriptions for adults who started college, achieved a number of college credits, but quit for some reason before graduating. Many of these stop-outs are struggling with student debt. They are trying to pay off college loans for a degree they hoped for but haven’t achieved.

Having some college but no degree is an issue across the United States. The Institute for Higher Education Policy found that in 2015 at least 35 million Americans aged 25 and older had some college, but no degree.

Why is this a critical issue? A report issued by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce examined the changes in the American workforce from 2008-2016, as the United States pulled out of the Great Recession. Entitled “America’s Divided Recovery,” the report found that of the 11.6 million jobs created in that period, 11.5 million went to college-educated workers. Many of these newly created positions typically require a baccalaureate. By 2025, the report concludes, 65 percent of all jobs in the U. S. likely will require a bachelor’s degree.

Some college, no degree stats

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) reported that each year more than 48,000 students stop out of Texas public institutions of higher education having completed 75 percent or more of the college credit needed for a degree. Of the total stop-outs, 38,686 students left Texas community and technical colleges with 45 or more college credit hours but no degree. For clarity, a typical associate degree takes 60 credit hours for completion. A typical bachelor’s degree takes 120 credit hours for completion.

The THECB recently analyzed a cohort of students who stopped out after accumulating 90 or more college credit hours without completing a degree. Together, this cohort of students completed more than a million college credit hours. The estimated cost to Texas for funding these college credit hours with no degree earned, is $82 million.

Some college, no degree stats:

  •  Economically disadvantaged males have the lowest degree completion rates at 9.9 percent
  • Minority males make up a disproportionate percentage of the state’s stop-outs from public universities. They make up 20 percent of enrollment but are 26 percent of the stop-outs.
  • Based on Texas eighth grade cohort data, only 13 percent of African American students complete a degree.
    • Only 14 percent of Latino students complete a degree.
    • For low income students of any background the completion rate is only about 10 percent.
  • Less than 30 percent of college students who stop out for financial reasons will ever complete their degree.

Emergencies are one reason students stop out of college. According to the latest survey by the Hope Lab:

  •  about 42 percent of surveyed community college students reported being food insecure.
  • about 46 percent of these students said they experienced housing insecurity.

College emergency aid programs help students meet unexpected financial needs that may prevent them from completing their degrees.

Texas has several innovative pathways to help stop-outs finish what they started.
– The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate program offers low-cost, high quality degrees that enable non-traditional students to return to college and finish the degree they started.
– The Texas Legislature provided for increased opportunities for some community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees, which can lower the cost of obtaining a degree.

GradTX aims to help stop-outs finish what they started

Another innovative way Texas is helping stop-outs finish what they started is GradTX, a statewide campaign and initiative to recruit and re-enroll students who have completed at least 45 credit hours and stopped out without earning an associate degree or completed at least 90 credit hours and stopped out without earning a bachelor’s degree. The program’s mission is to partner with colleges to help stop-outs finish what they started.

The goals of GradTX are threefold:

  •  incubate new solutions and engage in continuous improvement to refine them;
  • adopt, adapt or abandon ideas depending on finds; and
  • scale evidence-based strategies for statewide application.

These goals will be led by a consortium of institutions who will partner with the Coordinating Board.

During the 2019 Texas Legislative session, policymakers appropriated $300,000 for the Grad TX initiative. These funds are expected to support:

  •  professional development,
  • staffing in the areas of advising and admissions,
  • a robust transcript evaluation tool,
  • targeted financial incentives, and
  • various outreach and communication tools via a statewide marketing campaign.

Together with the THECB, the Grad TX Consortium will build connections across colleges, universities, and supporting organizations to accelerate innovations and share promising practices. The THECB will be instrumental in seeking technical assistance for the consortium members, to ensure institutions are successful at engaging with any stop-out student anywhere in Texas.

GradTX aims to help near completer and stop-outs who have some college, no degree. The aim is to help them finish what they started. It will help a greater number of Texans to achieve the American dream. It will also help achieve the 60x30TX goals for greater prosperity for Texas and Texans.

Kelly Carper Polden is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is the assistant director of external relations, responsible for state agency communications and media relations, for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. She has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning, strategic communication professional with extensive experience in media and public relations, C-suite communications, global events management, brand/corporate image management, and strategic and crisis communication management. You can read her posts here.

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