A new report offers step-by-step recommendations to help community colleges re-enroll adult learners and former students.

5 ways community colleges can re-enroll adult learners

A new report offers step-by-step recommendations to help community college leaders re-enroll former students

Amid nationwide declines in community college enrollment, a new report from nonprofit InsideTrack offers step-by-step guidance and recommendations to help community college leaders reconnect with and re-enroll students with some college education but no degree.

The new report, “Reconnect, Re-Enroll and Rise: Five Imperatives to Help Community Colleges Enroll Stopped-Out Students,” includes insights, best practices and ready-to-use tools to guide community colleges working to identify, engage and re-enroll adult learners.

“Helping former students re-enroll and finish college is vitally important for the success and sustainability of community colleges. But more importantly, it’s vital for promoting opportunities for economic mobility and advancement for learners and their families,” said Kai Drekmeier, co-founder and chief development officer of InsideTrack. “Through this research, we hope to advance the field’s understanding of not only the reasons why adult learners can benefit from personalized support, but also how community colleges can help them navigate a successful return to college.”

Since 2020, more than one million fewer students have enrolled in higher education. Community colleges have lost nearly 830,000 students since spring 2020.

At the same time, 39 million Americans have some college credit but no credential, and about 22 million of those students last attended a community college before stopping out. In the wake of the largest enrollment declines in decades, a growing number of community colleges have launched campaigns to re-engage former students and help them finish degrees or other credentials that can boost their career and economic prospects.

Drawn from InsideTrack’s experience serving community colleges and adult learners over the past two decades, the guide identifies five imperatives to help colleges enhance the planning, outreach and student support needed to drive adult learner re-engagement and re-enrollment.

The recommendations cover each of the critical stages of re-enrollment:
1. Establishing a campus-wide plan
2. Encouraging adult learners to return to college
3. Identifying and prioritizing former students to contact
4. Motivating students to re-enter higher education
5. Helping them navigate the final steps to matriculation

The guide also offers community college leaders ready-to-use tools that can help them reach stopped-out students and guide them through returning to college. The tools include an Institutional Readiness Assessment, which helps institutions evaluate their internal readiness for undertaking a re-enrollment campaign, as well as a Returning Student Intake form developed by Pitt Community College, among other tools.

“Far too many former students are just a $100 unpaid bill or a few credits shy of a college degree — and a pathway to a better life,” said Dr. Rufus Glasper, the president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College and one of the experts who contributed to the report. “Ultimately, removing barriers to adult learner re-engagement and re-enrollment is about re-evaluating and re-tooling internal processes and culture. It requires institutions to self-reflect on their long-standing processes and procedures, and this research is a worthy starting point for that important work.”

This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione