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Cleveland State University, College Now expand efforts to bring Cleveland ‘stop-outs’ back to college

August 9, 2018

Cleveland State University, College Now expand efforts to bring Cleveland ‘stop-outs’ back to college

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- More than 200 people returned to pursue a degree at Cleveland State University last year because the university and college access advocates reached out to bring them back. 

The partnership between CSU and College Now provides a new path for to students who dropped out. In its first year, about 13 percent of the students who came back graduated.

Nine students, which amounts to about five percent, dropped out again. 

CSU is one of four public institutions across the country that received a grant this year to support new approaches to boosting student success by engaging with the community. The $50,000 renewal grant will take the (Re)Connect to College program into its second year and potentially expand it. 

What benefits are there to reaching out to students who dropped out?

Retaining students is a problem at CSU. The university, which serves a large group of nontraditional students, is striving to improve their graduation and retention rates. 

CSU is on track to graduate 45 percent of students who entered as full-time first-year students in 2012. About 43 percent of freshmen who entered in the fall of 2011 graduated. This doesn’t include the number of students that start at CSU and transfer to receive their degrees somewhere else. 

It’s not just a Cleveland problem, it’s a national problem. Nationally, graduation rates at public institutions are around 59 percent. At private nonprofits, the rate is 66 percent, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. 

The cost of college also continues to rise, leading more people to question the value of college. 

Reconnecting with students and figuring out why they dropped out leads to a whole group of students already on their way to a degree.

After some time away from school, these students might be able to return with a clear reason to be there or the means to graduate -- especially with additional support. 

What do we know now about students returning to college?

College Now advisors reached out to students that left CSU. College Now would then work with them on the issues that led them to drop out. After that, the potential returning students were referred to CSU’s Transfer Center. 

Peter Meiksins, vice provost for academic programs at CSU, said students who “stopped out” -- dropped out of college and then returned -- often were struggling to juggle everything they needed to do in their lives.

A student could be trying to pay their way through school through working long hours. He or she could be supporting a parent, a sibling or a child while trying to take classes.

“They gave up the easiest thing to give up, which was college,” he said.

When College Now reaches out now, former students might be in a much better situation where they now have the means or time. They just didn’t think about going back or didn’t know the steps to do so.  

Sometimes there’s a outstanding bill or an academic problem barring the person from returning to campus.

Another problem is that students couldn’t see how the degree they were pursuing connected to their life goals. Meiskens said this is common with students who return to school, but the current generation of students in general, especially after the 2008 recession. 

If there’s no clear connection between a degree and how it will help the student get a job or start a career, the costs could outweigh the benefits. 

What’s next for (Re)Connect to College? 

A new challenge, Meiksens said, is figuring out why students drop out again when they come back to school. It could be that the financial aid still isn’t there or the student figures out college still doesn’t fit in their schedule.

If there’s a class or particular obstacle students struggle with, CSU and College Now can help with that. Organizers are currently looking at data to see where they can intervene. 

Meiksens said the program is also looping in CSU’s continuing education efforts because students who return after a long time might be unsure about how best to approach school.

The program is also looking at partnering with an area employer to expand outside of students who previously attended CSU. Part of a partnership would be working to train employees on skills that the company needs, either through degrees or new certifications. 

If you’re interested in the (Re)Connect to College program, click here for more information. To learn more about College Now and their services, click here.

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