When it comes to some college, no credential students (SCNC), re-engaging those who stop out remains an ongoing challenge.

More than 36M students have some college but no credential


Re-engaging those who stop out remains an ongoing challenge and a priority for the 40 states that have set ambitious postsecondary attainment goals

Key points:

More than 36 million U.S. adults aged 18-64 have some college experience, but no credential–known as “some college, no credential,” or SCNC–according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Between July 2021 and July 2022, the number of SCNC students rose 2.9 percent and hit 36.8 million, according to the Some College, No Credential Student Outcomes: Annual Progress Report, which also found that relatively few SCNC adults are opting to re-engage with higher education. More than 943,000 SCNC adults re-enrolled in the 2022-23 academic year. While this number indicates increasing re-enrollment (an increase of 78,300) compared to the previous year, it represents only 2.6 percent of the SCNC population. As a result, the majority of SCNC adults remain out of college with no degree or other postsecondary credential. 

“It is encouraging to see an increase in the number of students re-enrolling this year, largely reversing the decline that we observed in last year’s report,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Higher education regularly generates more students leaving school without a credential than returning to finish one, however, which is both a persistent challenge and a continuing opportunity for the system to improve and grow.”

Re-engaging those who stop out remains an ongoing challenge and a priority for the 40 states that have set ambitious postsecondary attainment goals. It will also help increase the national attainment rate, which currently stands at 54.3 percent for those 25 to 64 years old, according to Lumina Foundation’s Stronger Nation initiative.

The report aims to provide timely insights into the SCNC population, offering state leaders and policymakers accurate data on their current status, along with tracking progress and outcome measures for SCNC students.

The report also focuses on recent stopouts, who joined the SCNC population after stopping out between January 2021 and July 2022, and potential completers, who have recent histories of at least two years’ worth of full-time equivalent enrollment.

Other key findings include:

  • Primarily online institutions (POIs) are an increasingly popular destination sector for students who switch schools at re-enrollment, although students re-enrolling at POIs have the lowest credential earning rate of all sectors after two years. 
  • Men and Hispanic, Black, and Native American students are disproportionately represented among the overall SCNC population, while women and White and Asian re-enrollees are more likely to complete a credential in the first year or persevere into a second year of enrollment. 
  • Potential Completer re-enrollees earn credentials at nearly twice the rate of their SCNC peers and earn more associate and bachelor’s degrees within two years. 

This annual progress report was produced with support from Lumina Foundation.

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Laura Ascione

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