To meet the state’s attainment goal of “55 by ’25,” the University of Hawai‘i (UH) System has initiated a systemwide effort to re-engage and re-enroll adults with “some college, no degree.” Statewide, there are 95,000 residents, ages 25-44, who have college credits without a college credential, and at the initiative’s inception, the UH had 34,000 recently “stopped out” students.

In 2017, UH began its initiative by inviting students close to completion to return through targeted marketing and some incentives. These initial experiences—by targeted students and by campuses–demonstrated the need to take stock of the system and community’s assets to support returning adults’ success. Marketing was insufficient. Students previously left for a reason and must have a compelling reason to return.  The institution must be prepared to support returning students who are giving themselves – and the institutions – another chance at success.

UH developed a comprehensive strategy, getting campus by-in, making policy and technology changes, and encouraging and supporting campuses to provide dedicated student support and increased academic choices.

To generate campus interest and increase their understanding of the different needs of this group, UH System convened two large all campus meeting.  Campus leaders learned from national experts who are leading the field, discussed data about stopped out and returned students, and identified returning students’ needs and potential solutions to address the needs.  Campuses designed their student support roadmaps and had the opportunity to learn from other campuses.

To streamline returning students’ re-enrollment and completion, System leaders initiated changes to address policies, technology tools, practices and attitudes regarding returning students. These changes included shorter duration online courses, expedited re-admission, and new technology to allow students to explore application of earned credits to a range of degree options. The system also conducted message testing and experimented with various incentives to encourage students to return. A larger outreach is planned once more major internal supports and policies are in place.


Register for CCA’s upcoming webinar, An Intentional Approach to Engaging Adult Students, on September 20 to hear more from the authors.