Ohio’s total number of high school graduates is projected to keep declining. That’s a big deal for the state in lots of ways, including when it comes to its higher education institutions. 

One population that’s lucrative to colleges is growing, though: adults who took some college classes but never earned a degree or credential. Getting more of these students back on campus could be a gamechanger for colleges and workforces. 

There are more than 40.4 million people nationwide who fell into the “some college, no degree” camp as of July 2021, a nearly 4% increase from the previous year. That’s according to a new report released April 25 from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

The Buckeye State ranks sixth in the nation with nearly 1.4 million of these former students. That number grew from the previous year, though at 2.5%, the year-over-year change is in the middle of the pack nationally, the report found.  

A few different local initiatives aim to win these students back. One is the Ohio College Comeback Compact. As Signal Cleveland detailed in February, only about 150 Northeast Ohioians  – roughly 2% of those eligible — actually enrolled in the initiative’s pilot year.    

“Some folks have moved on,” Jonathan Wehner, vice president and dean of admissions, enrollment management and student success at Cleveland State University, said in February. “Maybe their dreams or their aspirations have changed away from completing their degree, so they engage at a low rate.” 

Here are a few other highlights from the Clearinghouse’s findings:

  • Every state saw growth in this group of former students. 
  • The report points out two reasons for that. One is that nearly all of those who were previously disengaged with higher education stayed that way. Not many returned. Plus, more than 2 million more people left college during that time, too.
  • The Midwest region saw the biggest increase – nearly 20% –  in adults earning certificates.  
  • Community colleges play a vital role when it comes to this student population. Two-year publics are the “most common type of institution of last enrollment, re-enrollment, and first credential attainment,” researchers said. 

Amy Morona covers higher education for Signal Cleveland, in partnership with Open Campus.

Higher education reporter for Signal Cleveland in partnership with Open Campus.