BOULDER, CO – A new report shows college closures have an overwhelmingly negative impact on students, with students 71.3% less likely to reenroll within one month and 50.1% less likely to earn a credential than students who did not experience a closure.
A Dream Derailed? Investigating the Causal Effects of College Closure on Student Outcomes is the second of three reports seeking to quantify the impacts of college closures on students’ postsecondary enrollment and completion outcomes. From a collaborative research team at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center, these reports are also meant to identify ways states can support students who experience a closure through various policy levers.
In order to explore the causal effects of college closures on student outcomes, SHEEO looked at a combined dataset of enrollment and credential completion records for 143,215 students who experienced a closure at 467 institutions of higher education between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2020, and 1,295,773 matched control students enrolled in 467 matched institutions who did not experience a closure. By looking at a matched sample of students, SHEEO explored the direction and strength of the associations between closure and student outcomes such as enrollment, persistence, and completion. As outlined in the first report, A Dream Derailed? Investigating the Impacts of College Closures on Student Outcomes, more than 100,000 students experienced their institution closing without adequate notice or a teach-out plan from July 2004 to June 2020.
“The research from this report shows that when schools close, the impacts are potentially life-altering, with most students choosing not to reenroll right away and half as likely to earn a credential than students who did not experience a closure,” said SHEEO President Rob Anderson.
Research found that students who experience a closure are less likely to reenroll and are more likely to switch to a shorter-term credential than the one they were pursuing at the time of closure. Students are also less likely to earn any credential post-closure and take longer to complete a credential compared to students who did not experience a closure.
- Students who experienced a closure were 71.3% less likely to be enrolled after one month and 63.3% less likely to be enrolled after four months than students who did not experience a closure.
- Students who experienced a closure were 50.1% less likely to complete a credential than students who did not experience a closure.
- Students who experienced a closure were 19.9% more likely to complete a shorter-term credential than the credential they were pursuing at the time of closure than students who did not experience a closure.
Unfortunately, these negative impacts are most pronounced for students of color, students enrolled in certificate programs, and students enrolled in the for-profit sector. These students are also the most likely to experience an institutional closure, particularly abrupt closures that occur with little warning or time for students to prepare.
State agencies of higher education and institutions can play a key role in helping to minimize the negative impacts on students due to college closures. Several policy implications were outlined in the report, including simplifying the transfer process for students of closed schools, offering extra supports like transfer counseling and orientation, and creating policies requiring institutions to submit and implement contingency plans in the event of closure.
This series of three publications examining the impacts of college closure on student outcomes is supported by Arnold Ventures.
The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) serves the executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education and their staffs. Founded in 1954, SHEEO promotes an environment that values higher education and its role in ensuring the equitable education of all Americans, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic factors. Together with its members, SHEEO aims to achieve this vision by equipping state higher education executive officers and their staffs with the tools to effectively advance the value of higher education, promoting public policies and academic practices that enable all Americans to achieve success in the 21st century, and serving as an advocate for state higher education leadership. For more information, visit sheeo.org.