Back To The Future - States Enticing Dropouts to Finish College

Back To The Future - States Enticing Dropouts to Finish College
Susan Dutca-Lovell

In hopes of boosting the local economy, Tennessee state education officials spent roughly $1 million this past year in advertising enticing college dropouts to finish what they started.

The state's partnership with Tennessee Reconnect is just one of several comeback programs established to combat the "nearly 37 million working adolescents nationwide [that] have some college credits but no associate or bachelor's degree". By 2020, 35 percent of jobs will require at least a bachelor's degree, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Therefore, public and private universities are digging into student records and recruiting students who completed more than half the work needed to graduate.

Mississippi's public universities similarly announced their Complete 2 Compete initiative which encourages adults to earn their degree. Other states, including Iowa, North and South Dakota and cities including Albuquerque, NM, and Louisville KY are seeking similar programs for returning adult learners, which often include grants and credit for work experience.

In states where 30 percent or less of working adults are sans a bachelor's degree, the median wage was roughly $15 an hour, according to a 2013 report from the Economic Policy Institute. In states where more than 40 percent of working adults have a bachelor's degree, median wages were $19-$20 an hour - an annual $10,000 difference.

Over 270,000 emails, 125,000 postcards and 30,000 phone calls have been sent and made by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to nontraditional adult students who left college without a degree in the past 10 years. The goal by 2025 is to have 60 percent of adult residents graduate with a degree.

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