Where UC Happens: Current State and Expansion Opportunities

A RE-CAP: Focusing on Non-Traditional Students

It was an honor for Dean Kevin Vaughn to be invited to present before the UC Board of Regents to talk about the unique opportunities UC Extensions bring to the UC system. The self-supporting UC Extensions are the primary academic unit on each of UC’s ten campuses focusing on continuing education for adult, post-traditional learners. They collectively serve about 300,000 learners each year.

UC Extensions offer programs in academic preparation and K-12 outreach; career skills for undergrad and grad students; lifelong learning to stay current in the workplace, train for new careers, and meet personal goals; certification pathways and intensive English immersion for international students; and now, degree completion assistance for students who left college without a degree. This new initiative was the focus of Dean Vaughn’s presentation.

This is an important initiative, developed by the University of California Reengagement Consortium, or UCRC, a four-campus collective that includes the Extension divisions of UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis and UC Merced. Since 2020, the University of California has allocated more than $15 million in state funding to UC Extensions and Continuing Education departments for the research and development of programs aimed at reengaging stop-out students. UC Riverside and UC Davis, the most recent recipients of these funds, received $4.85 million in a co-proposal.

The initiative serves two populations. The first priority is UC students with incomplete degrees, also known as “stop-outs” who left between 2008-2020; the second priority is California residents with some college and no degree attainment. The UCRC aims to reengage those adults, allowing them to continue their education either online or in person, depending on the options available at each respective campus.

California has more than 6.6 million stop-outs, with 130,000 of them in the UC system. The average age is 27, 68% completed two+ years, and 36% are only one or two courses short of completion. It is a geographically dispersed population, and more likely to be historically underrepresented and unemployed than UC undergraduates and other Californians.

UCR has about 47% underrepresented minorities, and 58% first generation students. Without degrees, this population is unable to realize the benefits in terms of earnings, occupational obtainment, and protection from unemployment that a diploma confers. It is a difficult population to recruit. Nationally, only 13% of college stop-outs return to study in the succeeding five years, and only half of them receive a degree.

Much of the work of the UCRC centers around advisors serving as caseload managers, conducting degree audits, developing personalized academic plans, helping students navigate resources such as counseling, basic needs support, tutoring, and financial assistance. This is essential because advisors serving conventional students have high caseloads and lack the resources and capacity to conduct proactive outreach and support students who are not currently matriculated.

The program also provides modest direct financial support in the form of waivers of readmission or transfer fees, resolving delinquent account holds, and tuition discounts for Extension course enrollments that help students progress to degree completion.

The UCRC is also eager to address the needs of many more California residents with some college and no degree who did not begin their studies on a UC campus. Many may not be eligible for UC admission, but they may benefit from Extension professional programs that help adults advance their careers.

Although UC Riverside and UC Davis began outreach in winter 2023, the four members of the consortium have reached out to a total of 9,000 students. As of the start of spring 2023, 800 are undergoing active advising; 125 have applied for readmission; 49 have filed for graduation, and 45 students have finished their degree.

These are great strides between the four campuses, but the ambitions of the UCRC are much higher. The UCRC knows that flexibility is critical for the success of the program to ensure that fulltime workers, parents, and mature learners can reengage and complete their degrees.

The UCRC is dedicated to building the road to degree completion as a key contribution to increasing equity. Learn more.