(Re)Connect to College – Working with “Stop-out” Students in Cleveland

Cleveland State University (CSU) and College Now Greater Cleveland are collaborating on a project called (Re)Connect to College – aimed at helping stop-out students to return to the University and earn their degrees. Ohio has a statewide goal of increasing the percentage of its residents who have post-secondary credentials to 60%. The state will not be able to meet this goal unless some of the students who left college without finishing a degree return. Our project will contribute to meeting this goal.

We know that many students who stop out of college face obstacles that make it hard for them to return. We also know that many students don’t respond to calls from their former institutions, whether because they owe them money or because of something else. The idea behind (Re)Connect to College is to design an intervention that addresses both of these issues.

College Now is a community organization that has no direct affiliation to CSU. Having College Now do the initial outreach to former students increases the likelihood that the student will respond. Since so many stop-out students can’t simply re-enroll in College, our project provides support and assistance, both through College Now and at CSU. College Now can help students find alternative sources of funding if they have a bill to pay or debts that need to be consolidated. CSU’s Transfer Center staff help students to identify scholarships for which they might qualify and opportunities for credit-by-exam or other prior learning assessment, and connect students with academic and other supports they may need.

Thus far, a group of 734 stop-out students from the most recent period have been contacted. Over 100 of these have now enrolled at CSU. Most students simply needed a nudge to return after an absence of several semesters. However, a subset required significant assistance — 17 students were referred by College Now to the CSU Transfer Center and, of these, 7 have re-enrolled for Fall 2017.

The following examples illustrate ways in which (Re)Connect to College has assisted stop-out students:

  1. Student A transferred to CSU in the Spring of 2010 after spending one semester at the University of Akron. She attended non-stop until the Spring of 2016 when she left college with one class remaining to complete her degree. With the assistance of a Last Mile Scholarship, she is back in school this fall to complete her degree in Accounting. Since university and departmental tutoring currently do not exist for a course at this particular level the (Re) Connect to College staff are working to provide her with support services for the class.

  2. Student B came to CSU in the Fall of 2010 as a Psychology major straight from high school. She left Cleveland State and transferred between both Cuyahoga and Lorain County Community Colleges. She stopped attending because she owed money to both CSU and Lorain. After an intake session, it was determined that she could obtain an Associate of Arts at Lorain if she was able to first pay off the nominal balance on her account. This allowed CSU to waive her remaining General Education requirements that she had previously viewed as a barrier to returning and completing a degree. After using some of her fall tuition monies to cover what she previously owed CSU, she is back in school for the fall and registered full-time as a Spanish major with a minor in Management and Labor Relations.

  3. Student C came to CSU in the Fall of 2015 after transferring from both Cuyahoga and Lorain Community Colleges. She was performing exceptionally in the classroom with a GPA well above 3.5, but she stopped out in the Spring of 2016 simply because she did not know how to market her degree in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Management. After an intake session with our staff, she was able to see the multitude of industries she could enter into with this particular undergraduate degree. She is back in school enrolled full-time in online sections that cater to her complicated work schedule.

We are continually learning from our work facilitating the (Re) Connect to College project. We hope to gradually expand our reach to students who’ve been out of school for longer periods and develop programs to address specific problems we are identifying through this work that continue to block stop-out students from re-enrolling.

Peter Meiksins is Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Professor of Sociology at Cleveland State University.  His office oversees a range of student support services, including the Transfer Center, and collaborates extensively with community partners, including local community colleges, the Cleveland Municipal School District, and agencies such as College Now of Greater Cleveland.

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