Growing Number of Americans with Some College, No Credential

Man walking alone on a path in the woods

According to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, by July 2020, the number of Americans with some college and no credential had reached 39 million. This is an increase of 3.1 million from 2019. Nearly every state experienced an increase, including Washington with 1.12 million residents in this category – 57% of whom are 35 years and older (5% higher than the national average). More than 58% of identified individuals last attended a community college, while more than 15% attended a public four-year college or university.

The report also notes that 944,000 students re-enrolled in postsecondary education during the 2020-21 academic year – nearly 60% of whom were women, and nearly 50% of whom were between the ages of 25-34. Nearly half of those who re-enrolled at public four-year college or university pursued bachelor’s degree programs in business, health professions, or computer and information sciences. More than 60,000 students – including 1066 from Washington – obtained a credential during this time. Seventy percent of those 60,000 students enrolled in a public community college or four-year college or university.

Over the past decade, higher education leaders in Washington have also focused on better serving those with some college and no degree in order to reach postsecondary attainment goals set by the WSAC and the Washington Roundtable. In 2018, The Washington Student Achievement Council convened more than 200 leaders to discuss how to increase the educational attainment of adult learners. In partnership with 55 campuses across the state – including all six of the COP member campuses – in March 2020 WSAC launched the College & Career Compass. This online tool is designed to help adults return to school and finish their education. Visitors to Compass can search for educational programs and pathways, navigate content tailored to support adult learners, and connect with campuses committed to supporting their progress. 

With physical locations across the state, there are many opportunities for someone with some college education and no credential to complete a bachelor’s degree from a public four-year college or university. There are also a variety of other programs and initiatives, ranging from UW’s Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Social Sciences (for those with at least 75 academic credits) to Evergreen’s Upside Down Transfer Option to CWU’s performance-based degrees in cybersecurity, project management, and more. And there are robust online programs as well, ranging from WSU’s Global Campus to UW’s Professional & Continuing Education to Eastern Online, CWU Online and Western Online. Higher education leaders will need to redouble efforts to connect with and serve those with some college and no degree, particularly given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and our state.