Closing the Completion Gap: The Trellis Strategies Approach to Re-enrolling College Students

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According to the National Student Clearinghouse, over 40 million Americans have some college credits but no credential.  These students have spent time and money on post-secondary education but do not have the degree or certificate to show for their time and investment. It’s crucial to confront the underlying issues head-on when facing a national crisis where millions are left with debt and no degree. 

Trellis research of students who dropped out shows that 41% did so for personal financial reasons, 35% for financial aid reasons, 32% for family responsibilities, 26% for academic problems, and 23% for work conflicts. This ‘completion gap’ affects individual futures and has broader economic and societal implications. 

About the Completion Gap in Higher Education

Trellis Strategies works with institutions to contact students and urge them to re-enroll to complete their degree. Trellis calls and texts students with instructions on the first step to enrolling. In the Fall term 2023, Trellis contacted 16,399 students with credits at 16 colleges and universities.

In some cases, over 20% of the students contacted re-enrolled. The average was 4.87% for the term, which is more than twice the results of similar initiatives reported in national media. Re-enrollment can be challenging for individual students. They might have life complications that prohibit enrollment this year (but might work out for next year). So, repeated contact is key.

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Trellis starts by identifying the causes of discontinued enrollment. Trellis helps institutions with surveys, data analysis, National Student Clearinghouse analysis, and discussions with campus staff. With a clear understanding of the barriers to completion, the next step involves crafting a communication strategy that resonates with every student’s unique situation.  Trellis then designs communication to fit the right audience. Students who left for academic reasons might need one type of communication, whereas students who left with financial holds may need another.   

How to Relate to Students Re-Enrolling

Trellis communication starts with an encouraging invitation to re-enroll (text or phone call) followed by clear instructions on what to do first, second, third, etc – all the way up to the start of class. Re-enrolling students need a clear pathway and regular communication (at least twice per month) about the steps to re-enroll.

Then, once they are re-admitted, they need strong advice to help them understand which courses to take to finish the degree. In some cases, students may even be closer to a degree than they realize because their accumulated credits may add up to a different program than the one they originally pursued.  Additionally, Trellis supports institutions with policies for holistic financial review to assist with the reinstatement of eligibility for enrollment.    

As we’ve seen, the path to re-enrollment is paved with persistent encouragement and tailored support, reminding us that the journey towards educational completion is ongoing.  Trellis utilizes re-enrollment strategies that are proven to encourage students to return to their studies and conducts outreach every semester.

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As mentioned above, some students may be contacted several times over the course of a year until they re-enroll in a term that fits their schedule. What’s key is to continue reaching out. Some students may proactively re-enroll, but others (perhaps most) need encouragement and a message from their institution: you can still do it, and we want to help you! Contact us today about our custom research packages to help close the completion gap at your institution.