• Joanne Jacobs

Reclaiming degrees — but what are they worth?


Millions of students drop out or “stop out” of college with some credits, but no degree. Degrees When Due, created by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, aims to help colleges help former students complete an associate degree.

Previous “reverse transfer” campaigns let students use credits earned at four-year institutions to complete a community college degree. “Degree reclamation,” as IHEP calls it, tries to re-engage  former students who’ve completed credits — earned anywhere — that could qualify them for an associate degree.


An associate degree in nursing has a big financial payoff.


Colleges could improve their graduation rates, writes Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle of Higher Education. But, she wonders, what’s the value for students?

IHEP estimates that 36 million adults have some college and no degree, and about four million have earned enough credits for an associate degree. IHEP’s goal is 500,000 new graduates.

Jason L. Taylor, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Utah, will analyze whether students who “reclaim” a degree do better, writes Blumenstyk.  “As his previous research on students from Hawaii, Minnesota, and Ohio showed, retention and bachelor-degree-completion rates were (depending on the state) 5 to 18 percent higher for students who had received their associate degree via reverse transfer than for those who didn’t.” But “he found correlation but no direct causation.”

For those who want to improve their earnings, an associate of arts degree doesn’t help much. Those who complete an associate degree in applied science in a health-care or technical field may earn more than four-year graduates. However, vocational degrees will harder to “reclaim.”

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