Student Projects

Determining the Barriers to Entry and Completion for Returning College Students in New Jersey

College graduates with diplomas

Kermina Hanna, Sabrina Rodríguez-Vicenty, Henry Fessant-Eaton, Jana Schwarz, Naomi Hogan, Ian Allen

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In 2019, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) in New Jersey (NJ) published the New Jersey State Plan for Higher Education, outlining a student-centered vision and their continued commitment to ensuring that “65% of working-age New Jerseyans will have a high-quality credential or degree by 2025” (NJ OSHE, 2019).

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced institutions of higher education (IHE’s) to physically close, and thousands of students had to complete their degree remotely. This environment proved challenging for many students, both exacerbating existing obstacles and creating new ones. As a result, some students decided they could not continue and left before completing their course studies. However, students were also leaving without finishing their degrees prior to the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, according to the New Jersey Education to Earnings Data System (NJEEDS), at least 589,649 students in NJ fall into the category of “Some College, No Degree” (SCND), or students who enroll in an IHE, but leave – what we will refer to as “stopping out” – before graduating with a credential or a degree.

OSHE recognizes that by re-engaging this student population and ensuring their successful degree completion, they can not only reach, but can possibly also exceed their “65 by 25” goal through the building of pathways for upward economic mobility for thousands of working-age adults in the state.