Program helps MN colleges break up the ‘stop out’ pattern

Samuel B. – stock.adobe.com

The pandemic and other factors forced some Minnesota college students to put their academic careers on hold.

Several schools around the state, including Anoka-Ramsey Community College, are tapping into a program that expands efforts to get these individuals back on the path toward degree completion.

Degrees When Due” participates with schools around the country, helping them locate students who have earned credits but haven’t re-enrolled after “stopping out.”

Anoka-Ramsey’s Dean of Research and Evaluation Nora Morris said aside from pandemic issues, common life events can come up.

“Oftentimes, it’s things like family,” said Morris. “So, either having children or having adults in your life that need care, taking care of parents. And also, there’s no denying it’s a lack of funds.”

She said that often impacts first-generation or low-income college students, who opt to focus on work.

Morris said these issues had been building prior to the crisis. A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center says in the past couple of years, Minnesota saw a 3% increase in those who left school without earning a degree.

The findings only include the first few months of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Morris said in recent years, they’ve identified nearly 680 potential “completers.”

While only a handful re-enrolled, she said it’s still worth it because it prompts the school to look inward to reduce barriers.

“We know we need to communicate better,” said Morris. “We need to communicate better about resources that are out there and not just communicate, but actually work to make those resources – whether it’s online tutoring, that’s available when students need it. Or financial resources.”

And Anoka-Ramsey has added food pantries to help students stay focused on academics.

Morris said even though the job market is attractive right now, she encouraged coming back to finish your degree and create opportunities. Schools such as hers are trying to keep it simple so the investment pays off.

“One of the interesting things that we discovered is oftentimes, they have more than enough credits to graduate,” said Morris. “They just didn’t fit nicely into any one major. And so, we are working at the front end now with students to get them on track so that they don’t end up with 80 credits and no degree to show for it.”

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

Mike Moen is a writer for Minnesota News Connection.