2021 Re-Enrollment Initiatives Helped Thousands of Underserved Students Return to College
February 25, 2022
PORTLAND, ORE. – InsideTrack, the national nonprofit organization that pioneered the application of success coaching in higher education, announced results from its efforts to re-enroll stopped students across 25 institutions during 2021. According to preliminary data compiled by InsideTrack, colleges and universities that deployed success coaches were able to contact 27,000 former students and help 3,000 of them ultimately register for courses—with 73% of those students coming from underserved or underrepresented backgrounds.
“The startling enrollment declines and disruption of the past two years have created new barriers to college access and enrollment that few would have imagined. We can’t let these reverse the hard-earned progress toward improving access, equity, and completion in higher education,” said Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack. “As colleges and universities chart a path toward a more sustainable recovery, these results show that re-enrollment is effective not just as an institutional strategy, but as a lever for helping students fulfill their aspirations in higher education and the workforce.”
According to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, higher education enrollments have declined more than 6.6% since the pandemic began—or more than 1 million fewer students enrolling.
The number of returning students decreased by about 8.8%. Nationally there are more than 35 million adults who have enrolled in college and left without receiving a degree or certificate. In the wake of the largest single-year enrollment declines in decades, a growing number of states, institutions, systems and nonprofits have launched campaigns to re-engage former students, help them finish a degree or credential, and improve their long-term economic prospects.
To support these re-enrollment efforts, InsideTrack reached out to 27,000 students through projects at 25 partner institutions during 2021. A dedicated success coach supported students through the re-enrollment process, with the goal of helping balance the complex demands of work, family, and school responsibilities and get back on track to graduation. In many cases, the coaching continued on through the first semester, or longer, to ensure students stayed on track.
According to InsideTrack data, at least 73% of the returning students were from underserved backgrounds, self-identifying as either Black, Indigenous People of Color; Pell-eligible students; first-generation college-goers; or adult learners. The 25 partner institutions who participated in re-enrollment coaching initiatives represent a diverse cross-section of colleges and universities, including eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities, one predominantly Black institution, eight community colleges, four public universities and three private, non-profit colleges and universities.
In several states, state higher education systems are directly coordinating and supporting these efforts.
“Re-engaging former students must be a foundational part of our strategy for ensuring that working adults can attain the skills and credentials they need to succeed in an increasingly fast-changing economy and labor market,” said Dr. Laura Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College. “This work is key to supporting our statewide attainment goals. It’s about creating the sort of scaffolding and support that can enable returning students to successfully re-enroll, complete their studies and prepare for highly-skilled—and higher-paying—careers.”
InsideTrack’s unique approach to student re-enrollment uses one-on-one coaching—supported by a technology and analytics platform—to directly engage former students and help them navigate the enrollment process, define long-term goals and plan to overcome potential barriers to completion. To help address the variety of challenges to re-enrollment that former students face, the re-enrollment programs help students identify on-campus resources ranging from financial aid to health and wellness and academic support services. Ideally, the coaching then continues throughout students’ college careers to help them complete their program of study.
The application of coaching for re-enrollment is a cost-effective way for institutions to build enrollment and help near-completers return to finish their degree.
In a cross-institutional evaluation, InsideTrack found that the re-enrollment campaigns generated a 275% return on investment at an average cost per student registered of about $603. After the returning students complete the first term, the increased enrollment will bring an estimated $5.9 million in tuition revenue, all of which will be retained by the institutions. Nearly half of the re-enrollment work was funded through philanthropic grants in support of InsideTrack’s social impact mission.
In addition to its re-enrollment services, InsideTrack also draws on more than 20 years of experience in student success and support to provide a suite of other offerings, ranging from retention coaching, career coaching, professional development and training, and other high-touch services designed to improve the success of students and employees. Today, InsideTrack coaching remains one of the only higher education interventions that has satisfied the rigorous standards of evidence established by the U.S. Department of Education for inclusion in the What Works Clearinghouse.
About InsideTrack: InsideTrack is passionate about helping all learners achieve their education and career goals through the transformative power of coaching. Since 2001, we’ve served 2.6 million learners, partnering with more than 250 institutions and organizations to directly improve enrollment, persistence, completion and career readiness. Our coaching methodology is evidence-based and research-confirmed, with proven outcomes for every type of learner — from traditional to adult, part-time to full-time, online to in-person — including first-generation students and those who face systemic barriers to postsecondary success. We also work with partners to build internal coaching capacity through staff training and professional services — designed to sustain advances in-house for lasting, scalable impact. InsideTrack is a part of Strada Collaborative, a mission-driven nonprofit.
Featured image: Abby Chung, Pexels.