March 30, 2022
In recent years, both policymakers and practitioners working to increase postsecondary attainment rates in the United States have shifted their focus from college access to college success. At the same time, they have recognized that the prevalence of 36 million adults with some college education but no postsecondary credential is an important consequence of the many challenges facing American college students. Adults with some college but no credential face a range of barriers to both re-enrolling in college and completing a credential if they re-enroll. Those who have made several attempts to attend college may be burdened by student loans and other educational debt but cannot reap the social and economic benefits associated with earning a postsecondary credential. Given this reality, policymakers and postsecondary institutions must identify effective ways to support these individuals if and when they do try to return to college. Commissioned by the Lumina Foundation, this study offers a unique opportunity to better understand the experiences of adults who stopped out of college, re-enrolled, and either successfully completed a credential or seemed likely to do so. Based on a new survey of these successful returning students, the study investigates the challenges and supports they view as important to their ability to remain enrolled and attain a postsecondary credential, with the goal of identifying factors that facilitated their success.