Success in Re-enrolling 'Stopped Out' Students Leads to Expansion of Completion Program

SUNY Chancellor with Old Westbury students and staff

State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras recently visit SUNY Old Westbury to announce the expansion to SUNY's first-of-its-kind Re-Enroll to Complete program to close persistent racial and income equity gaps in student retention across SUNY. SUNY Old Westbury has participated since its inception in 2018. During his visit, Malatras met with Old Westbury students who at one point withdrew from college, but were later encouraged to resume their studies and put on the path to success through the Re-Enroll to Complete program.

  • "We must reverse the trend of having many SUNY students—especially our students of color—withdraw from college before earning a degree. The Re-Enroll to Complete program provides that foundation for students who left college to have the individualized academic and financial support they need to return and successfully complete their degree," said Chancellor Malatras. "Our SUNY for All campaign recognizes college isn't a linear process or one-size-fits-all experience—that it is critical to build programs around the great diversity of our student body so that they can earn their degree and achieve upward social mobility that a high quality, low-cost SUNY degree provides."
  • SUNY College at Old Westbury President Timothy Sams said, "When we admit a student to SUNY Old Westbury, we make a commitment to support their success, which includes removing roadblocks on their path to graduation. Our work through Re-enroll to Complete to bring students who stopped out back to SUNY Old Westbury represents our commitment to make good on our promise to our students. Promoting student success is the core element in everything we do on our campus. In our continuing commitment to student success, we must now do what we can to support the students who have re-enrolled and see them through to graduation."
  • Chanell Napier, Old Westbury Senior, said, "Having to take a timeout from my studies at SUNY Old Westbury due to a loss in my family was devastating—I didn't know if I would be able to return. Thanks to SUNY's Re-Enroll to Complete program, I was able to pick back up right where I left off and continue to pursue my degree in media and communications. The help I received from SUNY made it easy to re-enroll—even during a pandemic—and I now feel optimistic about what's in store for me."
  • Elijah Milien, Old Westbury Sophomore, said, "In the past I experienced challenges that distracted me mentally and stopped me from being a productive student. After taking time off and learning healthy ways to prepare myself, I was able to change my mentality into one that was ready to learn. SUNY Old Westbury was there for me when I was ready to come back. They accepted me with open arms, and I am now on pace to receive my marketing degree."
  • Old Westbury Student Government Association President Kalief Metellus said, "The pandemic has shown where there are inequities within higher education, and when it comes to students staying in college, students from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to be left behind than their white peers. SUNY's Re-Enroll to Complete program is designed to solve this problem so students who need help are receiving it so they can move forward and head back to school."

SUNY's Re-Enroll to Complete program proactively reaches out to student borrowers before they are required to begin paying back loans, urging them to re-enroll. The program provides academic and financial support as well as options of various programs, both online and at a campus across the SUNY system. The program has successfully re-enrolled 20,000 students at SUNY since 2018. As part of the expansion, every campus will now offer the SUNY-funded program. The Chancellor also announced that the program will be expanded by having SUNY increasing its outreach efforts to reach more students who are at high risk of not completing their education.

The highly successful program's re-enroll rate is nearly 30 times greater than standard attempts from student loan servicers that reach out solely to remind students of their debt and discuss repayment options and timeframes. In contrast, the sole goal of SUNY's Re-Enroll to Complete is to re-engage the student in college, put them on the path to graduation, and more permanently alter their career outlook and economic trajectory. This is accomplished through guidance and linkage to the many benefits of college, flexible options for returning including online courses, available financial aid, and the implications of leaving college without a degree, but with outstanding debt.

Expanding Re-Enroll to Complete was recommended in SUNY's recently unveiled, phase one, 25-point Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion action plan. The plan was developed following an in-depth analysis of the existing racial equity gaps across the university system. That analysis discovered students of a color at SUNY withdraw from college without a degree at a higher rate than their white peers. Less than two-thirds of Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Indigenous students return to SUNY to complete their degree. As a result, these students having some college and no degree have higher rates of student loan debt burdens and defaulting on student loans. Students who re-enroll and earn a degree are four times more likely to not default on their student loans.

Approximately 40 percent of students re-enrolled at SUNY came from low-income households—proof that expanding the program will be particularly beneficial for students who withdraw due in part to financial hardship. Once students re-enroll, the vast majority stay on the path to completion. The semester-to-semester retention rate for re-enrolled students was 88 percent on average pre-COVID, and 74 percent post-COVID. SUNY's overall retention rate for all students is 70 percent.

For former students who are interested in coming back to college, may call SUNY at 518-320-1888 or toll-free at 800-342-3811.

This press release was issued by the State University of New York Office of Communications.