Higher Learning Advocates Launches ‘40 Million Reasons’ Campaign to Raise Awareness Around the 40+ Million Americans with Some College, No Credential

40 Million Reasons graphic

WASHINGTON – The population of Americans with some college and no credentials (SCNC) experienced another surge in 2021, rising to 40.4 million – almost 1 in 6 – according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse. The report is released as Higher Learning Advocates (HLA) launches a new campaign to highlight audience demographics among the SCNC population and the reasons why higher education went wrong for them.

HLA’s new campaign focuses on key findings from the Clearinghouse’s SCNC Annual Progress Report:

  • The SCNC’s one-year growth of 3.6% or 1.4 million is due to minimal re-enrollment among the 39 million previously identified SCNC students and the 2.3 million new SCNC students (recent stop-outs).
  • Among the SCNC population, racial and ethnic minority students are overrepresented with Hispanic and Black students collectively comprisin g 43% of the total SCNC students.
  • Community colleges are the most common type of institution of last enrollment, re-enrollment, and first credential attainment for SCNC students and most SCNC students were younger than 35 at their last enrollment.

Insights derived from the Clearinghouse’s data, as well as HLA research and studies from partner organizations, informed the new campaign, which launched June 12.

HLA created the 40 Million Reasons campaign as part of the organization’s larger Widen the Path initiative to bridge the divide between higher education and work. Through storytelling, the new public awareness campaign gives a deeper explanation of the latest quantitative research surrounding the SCNC cohort.

“Most people leave higher education early due to financial hardship, time commitment, and competing priorities,” said Julie Peller, executive director of HLA. “The most recent surge in the number of Americans who have started college and left without completing a degree or credential only underlines that it’s time to take a closer look at the real reasons the SCNC population continues to grow and start to consider a wider range of pathways to re-engage today’s returning adult students. It’s critical to understand the details behind the data if we’re ever going to resolve the crisis.”

The campaign aims to uncover the life events or reasons that have caused more than 40 million Americans – about 15% of the country’s population – to leave higher education. By telling stories with social impact, 40 Million Reasons will shine a light on the policies that create real-life barriers and prevent tens-of-millions of Americans from achieving their educational goals.

About Higher Learning Advocates

Higher Learning Advocates (HLA) is the leading bipartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for today’s students and their postsecondary success through policy and systems change. Established in 2017, HLA advocates for policies and support programs that ensure opportunity and promote inclusive pathways for all learners to succeed through an equitable system of higher learning, employment, and economic mobility.

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