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1 in 10 Students Who Leave College Before Graduation Already Have 90% or More of Their Credits for a Degree

One out of every 10 students who fail to graduate from their college or university have already completed 90 percent or more of the credits they need for a degree, according to a new analysis from Civitas Learning. And nearly one in five students who do not graduate have completed 75 percent or more of their credits.

The student success company analyzed data from 53 institutions (30 community colleges and 23 four-year universities), totaling more than 300,000 students, to better understand "near-completer" students and how institutions can target their support services to improve graduation rates.

"While we know the first semesters are critical for ensuring a student starts strong, the end of the journey can be equally important and challenging. Our research has found that a significant numbers of these near-completers may actually be in good academic standing and quite close to the ultimate goal of earning a certification or degree," said Mark Milliron, co-founder and chief learning officer for Civitas Learning, in a statement. "Put simply, to significantly improve student success rates, we need to use targeted advising and outreach to ensure that students get a strong finish, as well as a strong start."

Some of the challenges outlined in the report include:

  • Helping transfer students make sure their prior credits are accepted and applied to a degree at the new institution;
  • The need for "coherent, clear and communicated" degree pathways; and
  • Differential tuition policies, which can increase a student's financial burden as he or she nears completion.

The report recommended reaching out to near-completers with more counseling, career advice and mentorship, to help nudge them toward a degree. In some cases, even small moves, such as e-mail reminders of key deadlines, can be enough to make a difference, according to the report.

For instance, the report cited Del Mar College, a two-year institution in Texas, as an example where advising efforts targeted to near-completers has significantly improved graduation rates. The college used the Civitas Learning platform to identify students who had completed 75 percent or more of their credits, predict their likelihood to persist, and intervene accordingly. "Students with high persistence predictions were sent personalized e-mails reminding them of degree requirements and upcoming deadlines, and those with middle to low persistence predictions received phone calls from graduation coaches inviting them to a face-to-face meeting," the report explained.

The result: "By focusing our advising outreach on students who completed 75 percent or more of the credit threshold for a degree, we were able to connect with students at the right moment and ensure they were prepared to cross the finish line, graduate and advance in their career. This approach resulted in a 36 percent increase in our graduation rates within one year," reported Mark Escamillia, president of Del Mar College, in a statement.

The full report is available for download on the Civitas Learning site (registration required).

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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