Skip to Content

IHEP Launches Degrees When Due, New Initiative to Help Colleges Boost Degree-Completion, Narrow Degree Attainment Inequities

September 25, 2018

By the Institute for Higher Education Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) announced today the launch of Degrees When Due, a three-year initiative to help states and postsecondary institutions improve degree-completion, especially among students with some college credits, but no degree.

Postsecondary institutions in eight states, each committed to improving degree attainment, will join the inaugural Degrees When Due cohort. Staff at participating institutions will learn how to implement degree reclamation strategies aimed at identifying degree-eligible students and successfully reengaging stopped-out students. These research-based strategies will enable states and institutions to close educational attainment gaps by helping more students complete their studies.

Degree reclamation – a term coined by IHEP – is a set of evidence-based and equity-focused strategies to:

  • Reengage stopped-out students, providing targeted supports to help them complete their studies; and
  • Help colleges award associate degrees to students who have earned the right credits at one or more institutions.

Within one year, campuses in the first Degrees When Due cohort will be equipped to award new associate degrees to as many as 30,000 students. Within three years, IHEP will welcome campuses in 32 states to Degrees When Due. As campuses and postsecondary systems optimize policies to identify and support returning students, the initiative will result in as many as 500,000 new graduates.

“When a college student becomes a graduate, she moves closer to realizing her full potential. But when she pauses her studies, even after earning enough credits, and never receives her degree, that potential becomes much harder to realize,” said IHEP President Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D. “Through Degrees When Due we’re helping schools build the capacity to help more low-income students and students of color cross the degree-completion finish line.”

Degrees When Due is the result of a shared commitment to increase degree attainment among the nearly 4 million students with some college credits, but no degree. Together, Lumina Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, and ECMC Foundation have invested $5.8 million to support this endeavor. This combined commitment represents the largest investment in an IHEP initiative and will ensure that states and institutions can participate at no charge.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that each year, almost one in five students enrolled in a postsecondary program falls short of earning a degree or credential. Many students pause their studies – or stop-out – because of financial challenges, work and family obligations, or other personal commitments. These students are more likely to be women, people of color, first-generation students and from low-income households. The Center estimates that nearly 4 million students nationwide have completed at least two years of college credits but have yet to earn an associate degree.

This fall, staff at participating campuses will begin a 9-month online learning experience on degree reclamation complete with guided lessons and live coaching from expert practitioners who have successfully implemented these strategies.

“As we work to strengthen and grow the talent pipeline in New Jersey, a postsecondary credential has become ever more important; state and campus leaders nationwide must use every tool available to help more students earn a meaningful credential,” said New Jersey Secretary of Education Zakiya Smith Ellis. “Degrees When Due holds tremendous potential to help New Jersey’s colleges welcome students back to the classroom, support their progress toward earning a degree, and ultimately enjoy the economic security that so often comes with degree attainment.”

Many students complete a significant amount of credits at two-year institutions without obtaining an associate degree. Through Degrees When Due, institutions will learn how to perform successful degree audits to identify students already eligible for degrees. Institutions will also be supported in locating and engaging students who are a few credits away from completion, to encourage them to re-enroll and complete their studies.

The launch of Degrees When Due builds on IHEP’s longstanding commitment to developing research-informed strategies that increase degree-completion, and features lessons learned from IHEP’s Project Win-Win and the national Credit When It’s Due (CWID) initiative. Project Win-Win tackled the challenge of associate degree-completion among stopped-out students at 61 community colleges in nine states, while CWID focused on institutions awarding associate degrees to students who completed the two-year degree requirements while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Together, these models awarded 20,000 new associates degrees. Degree reclamation combines the most effective evidence-based strategies from Win-Win and Credit When It’s Due and brings them to scale nationwide.

The second cohort of states and postsecondary institutions will be announced in summer 2019. By fall 2019, IHEP will publish initial findings detailing the impact of degree reclamation strategies on increasing degree attainment rates and related impacts on students’ livelihoods.

Degrees When Due Cohort 1 States and Campuses:

California Shasta College will lead a regional effort in Northern California.
Michigan The Michigan Student Success Center is coordinating participation for the following institutions: Alpena Community College; Bay College; Delta College; Glen Oaks Community College; Grand Rapids Community College; Henry Ford Community College; Macomb Community College; Mid-Michigan College; Oakland Community College; St. Clair Community College; Schoolcraft Community College; and West Shore Community College.
Minnesota Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is coordinating participation for the following institutions: Anoka-Ramsey Community College; Anoka Technical College; Inver Hills Community College; Minnesota State College Southeast; Northland Community & Technical College; Northwest Technical College; Riverland Community College; and South Central College.
New Jersey New Jersey's Office of the Secretary of Higher Education is coordinating the state's institutional participation following a recently enacted statewide reverse transfer agreement. Participating institutions include: The County College of Morris; Georgian Court University; Mercer County Community College; Passaic County Community College; and Rowan College at Burlington County.
New York The City University of New York is coordinating participation for several of the system's associate degree-granting campuses.

The Community Foundation of Texas is coordinating participation for the following institutions in the Rio Grande Valley: South Texas College; Texas Southmost College; and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Citizens for Educational Excellence is coordinating participation for Del Mar College located in Corpus Christi.

Utah The Utah System of Higher Education is coordinating participation for the following institutions: Dixie State University; University of Utah; Utah State University; and Utah Valley University.
Washington The Washington State Achievement Council and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges are jointly coordinating participation from institutions across the state, including Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Washington State University.

Back to News