From Setback to Success: Meeting Comebackers Where They Are


Over 6 million Californians ages 25 to 64 have completed some college but have not yet earned a credential. Against the backdrop of ongoing enrollment declines and skilled workforce shortages, supporting this prospective student population to completion and success serves as a critical component in addressing the state’s postsecondary and economic challenges. Our new report, which draws on over 50 interviews with comebacker students (those who exited college and reenrolled) and a community of practice through CaliforniaAttain!, identifies four key areas, each with its own set of recommendations for promoting reenrollment and degree attainment while also shifting higher education structures to address the needs of today’s diverse college-going population.

Key Takeaways
  1. Reenrollment obstacles, including institutional barriers and lack of flexible learning options to accommodate the balancing act of multiple responsibilities (e.g., caring for a dependent or working full-time), hinder many Californians from returning to complete their education despite their intentions.
  2. Recommendations for higher education leaders to address these barriers emphasize adaptability, strategic outreach, the removal of reenrollment obstacles, and ongoing support. 
  3. The struggles brought to light through the student interviews emphasize that California needs to rethink its higher education structures, not just for the benefit of those who stopped out–and are so close to obtaining their credentials and degrees–but for the broader college-going population today.
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