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A statewide campaign in California aimed at helping working adults return to college and complete their degrees is seeing progress as it moves closer to expansion. Building on its initial launch in December 2022, California Reconnect has achieved significant success in its pilot phase and is poised to expand its impact across the state.
A collaboration between InsideTrack, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Project Attain, California Reconnect seeks to address the critical issue of adult learners who have some college credits but have not completed their degrees. Over the past year, the organizations have worked to build the infrastructure needed to help students who have stopped out of college, support learners on the pathway to re-enrollment, and work with institutions to implement policies and practices that support college completion and improved career opportunities.
“The success and economic vitality of California and our country depends on our ability to build a system of higher education that serves every learner, regardless of their academic and professional background or the unique needs they have,” said Kai Drekmeier, co-founder and chief development officer of InsideTrack. “These promising results will help us lay the foundation as California Reconnect continues to re-engage and re-enroll high potential learners throughout the Golden State.”
Since its formal launch in the spring of 2023, California Reconnect has made substantial strides. Seven campuses, including Sacramento State University, CSU Channel Islands, CSU San Bernardino, Crafton Hills College, Mesa College, Miramar College, and San Diego City College, participated in the pilot phase. To date, more than 5,700 former students have been contacted through these efforts—and of those 8.4 percent have re-enrolled, more than 4 times the national re-enrollment rate calculated by the National Student Clearinghouse. The five schools with the greatest success contacting and re-engaging students presented an even stronger re-enrollment rate of 11.2 percent.
Four million Californians ages 25 to 54 have a high school diploma and some college credit, but never completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 40 percent of all jobs in the state by 2030 will require a bachelor’s degree. Even as a growing number of good-paying jobs in California’s economy require education or training beyond high school, current projections show that the state is on pace to miss this goal by 1.1 million college degrees.
“Increasing the number of Californians with a postsecondary credential is an equity, economic and educational imperative—essential for ensuring that our communities are prepared to meet the needs of California’s rapidly changing economy,” said Susan Topham, Ed.D., vice chancellor of educational services at San Diego Community College District. “This is about ensuring that more Californians have both the support and resources to unlock their full potential and overcome the obstacles that can too often stand in the way of completion—and increased economic opportunity.”
To help more working adults in California earn degrees and credentials of value, the campaign is using a multi-pronged approach to help each student navigate the complex, and often daunting, process of returning to higher education after stopping out. Through direct coaching and student support efforts, adult students contacted through California Reconnect receive assistance removing barriers to earning their degree, including assistance in reducing or waiving unpaid fees, facilitating timely transcript release, offering wrap-around services, and recognizing prior learning.
“This is about creating opportunities for institutional leaders and practitioners to learn from one another and advance the practices, policies and procedures that make our colleges and universities more accessible for returning adult learners,” said Melanie Dixon, Executive Director of Project Attain “In addition to the direct impact with reaching returning learners, we’re building a community of practice that will benefit participating institutions. We’re excited to share these interim results as we embrace the spirit of continuous improvement that is at the core of this three-year project.”
Because data show that most re-enrolled students never return to their original institution or even the same institutional sector, California Reconnect takes an institution-agnostic approach that meets students where they are—and recommends a best-fit option that meets their needs. The initiative is on track to expand service to an additional 13 campuses in 2024, with a long-term goal of adding 10 more campuses in 2025. This expansion will enable California Reconnect to reach even more working adults across the state, ensuring that they have the resources and support they need to complete their higher education journey.
Over the next three years, California Reconnect will continue to share learnings from the re-enrollment program with state policymakers and compile data, insights and best practices that can help similar efforts on other college campuses to scale up. California Reconnect is funded through generous financial support from ECMC Foundation, Strada Education Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.
For institutions and other organizations interested in learning more about California Reconnect, visit https://info.insidetrack.org/california-reconnect.
This press release originally appeared online.
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