Over 4,000 Students Retroactively Receive an Associate Degree

Currently there are 36 million Americans with some college credit but no degree. Fortunately, there are organizations working to find these students and help them transition back to college.  This week, I attended a policy forum and press conference at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and funded by some of the key institutions working to help adults attain a college degree. 


The event brought together 61 colleges and universities from nine states to report on the success of Project Win-Win. Funded by The Lumina Foundation  and The Kresge Foundation, and managed by IHEP, Project Win-Win took place over the last four years. The goals were for participating colleges to identify and award associate degrees to students who had earned enough credits for an associate degree but had left college before receiving their degree, and also to help students who had just fallen short of the 60 credits required for the degree to return for the few courses they needed to finish.  These individuals are called “near completers,” because they have acquired most of the skills and knowledge represented by a college degree. However, because of work and family responsibilities or health and personal reasons, they often leave college before they finish.  

Thanks to those working on Project Win-Win, 4,260 adult students were identified and granted an associate’s degree retroactively.  Another 875 students who were close to completing their degree have now returned to college and should receive their diploma soon.  

Although there were many obstacles to identifying and contacting students, the participating colleges and state agencies who took part in the project found innovative and creative methods of reaching out to qualified students.  From using high-tech address tracking methods, to manually going through every transcript of every eligible student, the people involved made it happen.

There are still many challenges for adults who want to go back to college, but because of organizations like IHEP, The Lumina and Kresge Foundations and college administrators across the county, over 5,000 non-traditional students received or will soon receive their associate’s degree.  Let’s hope other institutions follow their model.

To learn more about Project Win-Win, visit The Institute for Higher Education Policy.


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