Help Potential Completers Thrive After the Pandemic

Today more than ever, it is important that higher education potential completers attain higher education goals. The current pandemic and related recession have made it difficult for people without post-secondary credentials to find meaningful work. The world of work requires that people have skills and knowledge that allow them to be flexible, rise to meet challenges and accept changes. Higher education institutions are developing programs that increase the possibilities for potential completers to attain higher education goals. There are also best practices that business can follow to ensure potential completers’ success.

Thirty-six million people in the US that have some college but no degree. Of these people, 3.5 million have at least two years’ worth of academic progress. These potential completers are the most likely to return to school. However, higher education enrollment has fallen this year and that includes potential completers who could return to school. Enrollment of people who previously had attended school fell by 15.6 percent according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.  There are always challenges for the nontraditional students who would be returning to higher education. The pandemic has created additional financial and employment challenges for many people. A large number of nontraditional students have family responsibilities, and for many that includes facilitating their children’s education during the pandemic. These circumstances are difficult for students and higher education institutions. “With colleges and students under enormous stress because of Covid-19, it’s important for institutions and learners to keep in mind the unique challenges and needs of part-time students, even in normal times, to persist and graduate,” said Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Many schools are responding to potential completers needs. ReUp Network is a group of colleges that uses ReUp to help re-enroll their stopped-out students. ReUp’s data shows that about 90 percent of the students it works with want to return to school and earn a degree, says Sara Horn ReUp’s CEO. For about 75 percent of the students that means returning to their original school and continuing their education. For others, it means enrolling in any of the schools within the network. Bellevue University in Nebraska, an Edcor partner school, has worked with ReUp for several years. Counselors at Bellevue work with the students’ best interest in mind, even if that means students transfer to another school. “We value retention to a degree rather than retention to an institution,” says Matt Davis, Bellevue’s Executive VP of administrative services.

Another way that schools are helping potential completers is through prior learning assessments (PLA). Many of Edcor partner schools, such as Western Governors University, University of Maryland Global Campus, Colorado State University Global and Excelsior College, recognize learning that occurs outside of the classroom. PLA helps potential learners by acknowledging skills and knowledge they have gained through work and other experiences. When prior learning is part of an education path, students can achieve their education goals faster. When colleges recognize prior learning from work experience, people also can move along their career path more quickly.

There is a sense of urgency for potential completers to attain their goals. In a recent EAB survey over 70 percent of participants reported that the pandemic had negatively affected their current or future employment outlook. These individuals recognize the need to complete their education so they have skills that can help them secure their career path. Attaining higher education goals also benefits employers, the economy and society as a whole. Employers that provide tuition assistance for their employees are a vital part of helping potential completers secure their education attainment and career paths. The American Council on Education states it this way: “The value of higher education ultimately lies in developing citizens and workers capable of contributing to the nation’s economic growth, individual opportunity, and social mobility. As we navigate this crisis and beyond, this is more important than ever.” 

By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator