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Using Evidence-Based Strategies to Reengage and Support College Near Completers

West | July 19, 2023

The majority of jobs in the United States require education beyond high school, including postsecondary degrees and certificates (Carnevale et al., 2013). The demand for a college-educated workforce is so great that the demand will not be met even if all current K–12 students earn a college credential. This gap between the supply of the labor market and the demand of college-educated workers makes it essential that adults who earned some college credits, but left college without a credential, have the opportunity to return to college and complete one. Because low-income and first-generation college students and college students of color are overrepresented among those with "some college, no credential" (SCNC), improving their access to degree completion may also help increase educational and workforce equity.

Currently, more than 6.8 million students in California have some college but no degree (California Competes, 2020). In order to help support institutions in their work to reengage these students, REL West has established the California Adult College Completion Partnership (CACCP). This partnership  comprises six higher education institutions in Northern California: three community colleges (Shasta College, Sierra College, College of the Siskiyous), one community college district (Yuba Community College District that includes Yuba College and Woodland Community College), and two colleges from the California State University system (Chico and Sacramento). REL West and these six institutions are committed to encouraging adults with SCNC to reengage in their education and complete a college credential.

As part of their focus on the SCNC student population, each of these six institutions participated in the national Degrees When Due (DWD) initiative led by the Institute for Higher Education Policy that focused on encouraging adult learners to return to college and earn a credential. During the majority of their year-long DWD engagement, the CACCP partner institutions developed systems to identify students with SCNC. They also explored the institutional barriers that prevent student success, learned about structural changes that can support adult students, and began to identify strategies to bring them back to school and prepare an environment conducive to complete their credentials.

When the DWD program ended, the partner institutions asked REL West to help them reach their objective of increasing the number of adults with SCNC who return to college and complete a credential. As part of this partnership, REL West is providing coaching support to help the partners identify, implement, and test on one or more strategic changes to their institution to reengage and support returning adults with SCNC.

The CACC partners identified strategies in three areas—Communications and Outreach, Reenrollment and Onboarding, and Student Supports. The table below includes strategies identified by each institution within these three areas. Examples of strategies related to communication and outreach that specifically target adults with SCNC include developing materials and website content, convening a cross-department team to design an outreach plan, and hiring and training outreach staff. Reenrollment and onboarding strategies include designing streamlined reenrollment and onboarding processes, and identifying a single point of contact who can help adults with SCNC reenroll. Finally, student support strategies to promote adult students' success after they reenroll include hiring and training staff dedicated to SCNC adults, including counselors who assist with transcript evaluation and degree requirements and guide adults with SCNC to needed wraparound supports.

Strategies to Reach Adults with Some College but No Credential


Communications and Outreach

Reenrollment and Onboarding

Student Support

Chico State

Design and implement an improved communication and outreach process for adults with SCNC

Design and implement a simplified reenrollment process for adults with SCNC students


College of the Siskiyous

Develop and implement marketing strategies to target SCNC adults

Provide a single point of contact to guide adult SCNC students to reenroll

Provide a single point of contact to guide adults with SCNC to coordinate wraparound services

Sacramento State

Improve process of reengaging SCNC students through developing a marketing plan and outreach toolkit



Shasta College

Improve the process of reengaging adults with SCNC through establishing degree evaluation and communication processes


Improve the process of providing supports to adults with SCNC by hiring and training a counselor

Sierra College (Nevada)

Design and implement a system of outreach, recruitment for adults with SCNC

Design and implement a system of onboarding for adults with SCNC

Design and implement a system of support for adults with SCNC

Yuba Community College District

Market district-level, accelerated, fully online and cohort-based pathways for the Business or Psychology Associate Degrees for Transfer (ADT)


Implement comprehensive student supports for students who enroll in the district-level, accelerated, fully online and cohort-based pathways for the Business or Psychology Associate Degrees for Transfer (ADT)

REL West coached each partner to develop its own logic model that outlines what they will do to implement their strategic change and the outcomes that they expect in the short, medium, and long term as a result of the implemented change. For example, to improve the process of reengaging adults with SCNC, Shasta College is convening a cross-department group to establish a degree evaluation process that will identify students to contact. They are also training staff to conduct the evaluations and to implement the new communication processes. The short-term outcome is attempting communication with 100 percent of students who were identified as SCNC. The medium-term outcome at Shasta College is for 20 percent of the students who received communication to reenroll in college, and for the transcript evaluation to be conducted on a regular basis and incorporated into a staff position that is funded by the college. The long-term outcome is an increase in the percentage of adults with SCNC who earn a credential.

Continuous improvement engages key constituents to focus on a problem of practice (in this case, the need for adults with SCNC to complete college), identify new approaches, tools, and strategies to address the problem, collect data about the change practices, and study the potential influence of those change practices on outcomes of interest (college reenrollment and completion rates). This process repeats through a series of iterative cycles of data collection, examining the effect on outcomes, and improving the change practice.

During coaching sessions, partners then completed a short-term outcomes worksheet that highlights their measurable goals and the data they will collect to track progress toward their goals. Throughout this work, REL West is supporting the partners learning from data and evidence through the "Plan Do Study Act" (or PDSA) continuous improvement model. During the planning stage, the partners identified the strategic change, the outcome measures they will track, and their data collection plans. The partners are currently in the "Do" stage where they are implementing their strategic change and identifying and collecting data. Later in the project, they will analyze their data ("Study"), and then, based on the findings of their analysis, they will make improvements to their strategic change ("Act") and restart the cycle. Ultimately, engaging in this continuous improvement process will help inform structural, policy, and program changes to increase the number of adults with SCNC who return to college and complete a degree.


Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands. (2020). Continuous improvement in schools: A toolkit for schools and districts.

California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy. (n.d.). Research and resources. Retrieved from

Carnevale, A. P., Smith, N., & Strohl, J. (2013). Recovery: Job growth and education requirements through 2020. Georgetown Public Policy Institute. Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University.


Mary Rauner

Mary Rauner
REL West

Beth  Hart

Beth Hart
REL West

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