Helping California adults complete credentials and advance


Institute for Higher Education Policy



Four million Californians ages 25 to 54 have a high school diploma and some college credit but never completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.1 What’s more, the Public Policy Institute of California notes that by 2030, 40% of all jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree2 — and the state is on a course to fall 1.1 million college degrees short of that goal.3 When you consider that employers are already struggling to fill hundreds of thousands of skilled and professional positions requiring credentials and degrees, the need for change is urgent.

Several nonprofit organizations are combining forces to help former California students return to college to complete their credentials. InsideTrack, the Institute for Higher Education Policy and Project Attain have launched a three-year demonstration project to support the re-enrollment of thousands of former California students, putting them on a path to program completion, improved employment opportunities, and upward economic mobility.

The project, CALIFORNIA RECONNECT, includes up to 30 participating institutions and focuses on economic regions that are growing rapidly and are full of economic opportunity.


The success of this project will be driven by four key strategies:


    The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) has worked with a number of colleges and universities in California in their effort to identify former students who had stopped out with significant amounts of credit earned. The data mining tool developed by IHEP through Degrees When Due has allowed colleges to identify, list and prioritize former students by the number of credits they accumulated. This project will leverage and expand this data, allowing us to target former students with the shortest time remaining to completion and the greatest likelihood to return and complete.


    In a recent report on the national “Some College, No Credential” population from National Student Clearinghouse, it is estimated that 62% of 944,200 re-enrolled students changed institutions upon re-enrolling — and those who did commonly crossed institution sectors (67%).4 Rather than solely focusing on bringing former students back to the original institutions they attended, California Reconnect will take a regional approach, modeled after the successful practices of Project Attain in the Sacramento region. This regional approach will focus first and foremost on the interests and needs of each student rather than directing them only to their former institution. This approach — which will focus on supporting the career goals, current circumstances and credit accumulation of the individual student — will prioritize what is best for the student and provide maximum flexibility for establishing the best path back into college and through to completion.


    InsideTrack leads the outreach and student support efforts, collaborating closely with participating institutions of higher education wherever possible. InsideTrack’s approach focuses heavily on career advising and development to ensure that students who choose to return are actively positioning themselves for career and economic advancement. Specifically, this “career first” approach supports prospective returning students in their consideration of educational options that align with their career interests, time, learning needs and career interests. InsideTrack coaches also make additional efforts to ensure that students are successful as they return. This includes developing plans for academic success while working part-time or full-time, ensuring a financial plan that will cover tuition, and supporting broader academic success strategies.


    Through this initiative, we encourage participating institutions to embrace and evaluate promising high-impact practices that remove barriers for returning students. These practices include but are not limited to:

    • Reducing or waiving unpaid fees that create registration holds
    • Actively facilitating the release of transcripts from former institutions, allowing students to access and transfer stranded credits into a new institution of their choice
    • Acknowledging the challenges of working adult learners with families by allowing for flexibility and accommodations
    • Offering adult-friendly programming and services, including wrap-around services, financial advocacy, counseling and childcare
    • Implementing and/or amplifying competency-based education initiatives
    • Increasing use of degree reclamation efforts and credit for prior learning practices
    • Auditing degree progress and course availability for returning students

Project Outcomes


Holistic support of individuals on their re-enrollment journey

We believe in and have supported the successful return of hundreds of students to degree and certificate programs during the pilot phase of this project.


Key insights documented at the institutional level

We believe documenting the reasons why students initially stopped out — as well as the barriers to their return — will generate insights and recommendations on the “Some College, No Credential” population, both at the individual institution level and more generally.


Evidence of success

We believe the results of the program will provide valuable evidence for California policymakers, justifying further funding for future phases of the project or similar initiatives led by other groups.


Local and state-level implications

We believe sharing documented insights will further inform practices and policies at the local, system and state levels.


Positive institutional outcomes

We believe that recognizing the importance of student re-engagement to institutional financial sustainability will encourage institutionally-based follow-up initiatives and investment.


Improved current and future student success

We believe the outreach and discussions with these former students will yield actionable, evidence-based feedback and recommendations that will help participating institutions — in real time — reduce further stopouts while easing the re-enrollment process for former students.

Our Funders

Thank you to the generous funders who make this initiative possible.

If you’re interested in funding innovative work like the California Reconnect initiative, please reach out to see how we can partner and make a greater impact on learner opportunity and advancement.

College Futures Foundation


ECMC Foundation


The Kresge Foundation


Strada Education Foundation


Information for participating institutions

Institutions participating in California Reconnect range from 2-year community colleges to 4-year public universities, all coming to the initiative with unique existing student support systems and processes in place. California Reconnect representatives take steps to understand where institutions are in their re-enrollment support process and work with staff and administration to implement best practices for policies and procedures.


At no cost to the participating institutions, California Reconnect will provide:

  • Outreach and re-enrollment support for former students, as well as a full semester of retention coaching for successfully re-enrolled students
  • Change management and collaboration with student support leadership to ensure full integration with campus initiatives and catalyze sustained re-enrollment efforts
  • Assessment and recommendations for strengthening of institutional practices, policies and procedures that affect returning students and student success more broadly
  • Opportunities to highlight and celebrate participating individuals and institutions for their tremendous efforts and successes


To find out more about the institutional requirements for participation in California Reconnect, download this informational sheet.

Get Involved

Contact us to learn more about this important partnership and find out how you can help:

Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer, InsideTrack
(510) 420-0442