As national focus on retention and student success increases, many states and institutions are looking for ways to increase the number of students who ultimately earn degrees. Many are realizing that the non-traditional adult student population is a historically untapped demographic that can provide almost instant, positive changes in graduation rates. This group is often considered low-hanging fruit and can be targeted to quickly complete unfinished degrees. This is especially true for institutions that have a large number of non-completers with high numbers of earned hours. Many non-returners have 90 or more earned hours and simply need some encouragement and proper guidance to start down the path to degree completion.
In West Virginia, as in many other states, institutions have recently increased their focus on student retention and success. One of the outcomes of this increased focus was the creation in 2011 of the statewide DegreeNow program to encourage degree completion by adults with previously earned college credit. DegreeNow is aimed at non-traditional students who have a significant amount of earned college credit—typically 90 or more semester hours—and who therefore can complete their degrees with minimal time and effort. To facilitate the success of DegreeNow, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission partnered with Dr. Marguerite M. Culp and the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) to create the Leveraging DegreeNow training project. Sponsored by a grant from the Lumina Foundation, the project focuses on teaching theoretical frameworks that support adult learners; strengthening partnerships between academic affairs and student affairs; creating a culture of evidence in student affairs; and identifying other ways to assist adult learners during their college experience.