More than 31 million students over the last 20 years have enrolled in college but left without receiving a degree or certificate.

Many states have made a priority of drawing this “some-college, no-degree” group back to school in their plans for boosting the educational attainment of their population. A number of state policies focus on re-enrolling adults with some college, no degree, but these policies are often broadly stated and could improve their impact with additional understanding of this population. There is a wide range of experience in terms of when the population stopped out, where they had previously been enrolled, and their current income and employment status. Understanding why people stopped out is key both to re-enrolling as well as increasing retention and preventing future stop-outs.

Strada Education Network, Lumina Foundation and Gallup collaborated on this report as part of a larger series of reports on adults without degrees. It provides firsthand, subjective perspectives of more than 40,000 individuals who stopped out of college before completing their degree. It is informed by data and insights from the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, an unprecedented telephone survey of more than 340,000 U.S. adults ages 18–65 that explores their educational experiences and attitudes.

Based on their responses, the report ultimately concludes that to be most effective in meeting the interests and circumstances of individuals who have attended college but did not graduate, state policymakers and institutions of higher education must include employers in solutions, reducing friction between learning and earning. Consumer confidence in the connection between pursuing education and realizing a desired work outcome is also a vital factor in meeting the aspirations of these individuals.