Old Dominion University

How ODU built a long-term strategy to bring students back with ReUp

When Old Dominion University (ODU) needed to boost enrollment and find new ways to engage with economically disadvantaged adult learners, they enlisted ReUp to provide wraparound student support.

© 2023, Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University (ODU) is a four-year public university in Norfolk, Virginia, with a waterfront campus serving as a hub of academics and vibrant student life for over 23,000 students. ODU has built a reputation as a dynamic institution committed to excellence in education, contributing $2.6 billion annually to its state economy.

ODU’s partnership with ReUp has resulted in 1,945 re-enrolled students, 402 graduations, and $7.8 million in recovered tuition thus far. These results are proof positive of ODU’s commitment to both first year and returning students, its community, and its mission of driving positive change through improved outcomes.

Today, ODU re-enrolls hundreds of adult learners as a result of its multi-year partnership with ReUp.

Partnership Overview

Interactions between ReUp and ODU students

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ODU students re-enrolled


Tuition Recovered

$ 7 M
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Students Graduated

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Overcoming the biggest challenge to persisting through college: affordability

For several years, ODU’s Student Engagement & Enrollment Services (SEES) team had noticed a pattern in their student exit surveys–many students that were stopping out were transferring to community colleges for financial reasons. Finances, as well as life balance and professional commitments, were some of the main reasons that students were unable to persist through graduation, validated with student data drawn from their interactions with ReUp.

Data as of 11/20/2022

With financing playing such a large role in ODU students’ reason for leaving, the university faced the very real risk of losing students to more affordable academic options, as well as to the workforce, increasing the likelihood that they may never return to college to fulfill their education goals.

Scott Harrison, ODU’s Associate Vice President of Administration for the SEES team, learned about ReUp and the strategy of reengaging stopout students through an article about student success coaching

I thought, this sounds really interesting, because we’d been coaching our students here, but we hadn’t really thought about bringing students back who had stopped out. We literally had no strategy for re-enrolling stopouts—it was all about recruitment and retention.


Associate Vice President of Administration for SEES

© 2023, Old Dominion University
Scott Harrison ODU
© 2023, Old Dominion University

Not having insights into this unique population of adult learners, ODU turned to ReUp to develop an engagement and enrollment strategy and provide the hands-on student support they needed to make inroads with stopped out students.

The solution: providing right resources to students at the right time

ReUp provided ODU with Success Coaches to make connections with its stopout students, leveraging technology and patented predictive scoring to understand their backstory, motivations for earning a credential, and their relationships (with themselves, the institution, family, finances, and work). This allowed coaches to provide the right resources at the right time.

When former stopped out student Mercedes Rain-Tree Adams had a difficult time staying focused on her studies at ODU, her Success Coach was there to check in through texts and emails, providing the support and inspiration she needed to stay on track.

“I wanted to quit,” Mercedes said, “And those times, she [the Success Coach] just helped me keep the momentum. She did a really good job of being like, ‘OK, we still have to stay on track. I want to help you as much as I can with what you’re feeling, but also, we have to make sure you have a plan,” Mercedes said she also gained accountability—each coaching session ended with clear next steps for the day, the week, or the semester.

(Read more about Mercedes’ path to graduation and see other Learner Stories here).

ReUp’s coaching methodology proved to be very effective for the SEES team at ODU, resulting in a retention rate that was 15 points higher for returning students than for similarly at-risk first-year students.

Scott notes that “ReUp coaches reignite the flame to motivate students to finish what they started—something that these students wanted to do in the first place, but had a difficult time taking the first step.”

Another critical element to a well-rounded, sustainable stopout engagement strategy? Keeping track of student insights in real time. “ReUp is consistently providing us with insights and updates, showing us how many of our students they’ve engaged with, and giving us all the demographic information we need about our students.”

© 2023, Old Dominion University

Stronger engagement best practices, stronger results for returning students

Throughout the partnership, ReUp provided several recommendations for wraparound support based on student feedback. For example, several low-income students told ReUp coaches that taking on an unpaid internship to fulfill the requirements of a program was unaffordable.

“We found the grants and resources we needed, worked with our administration, and developed an internship grant program that is helping to address that,” Scott said.

As a result of ReUp’s continual feedback-driven recommendations from over 283,000 students, ODU developed several best practices that helped them re-enroll over 1,945 learners and recover $7.8 million in tuition. These included:

Streamlining the application process

ODU provides ReUp-coached students with academic advising before admission (i.e. unofficial transcript audits). The university also provides a free online application for returning students, allows registration within a few days of the term’s start date, and allows returners to readmit for the second (or subsequent) start in the term. In addition, ODU does not require essays, letters of recommendation, or retesting.

Updating its admissions pages

Through ReUp’s insights, ODU learned that returning students can be intimidated by taking the first step to contact the university, so ODU created a specific webpage for returning students that includes welcoming messaging and a clear overview of next steps for enrollment.

Creating internship grants

ODU researched a paid internship program after learning from ReUp that many students had stopped out because they could not afford an unpaid internship that was considered a requirement for their major. Students can now apply for a $2,000 grant to support an unpaid internship

ODU’s partnership with ReUp has proven to be transformative, bringing students back to academic life and supporting them through graduation. Using actionable insights informed by student voices, ODU has created a supportive environment that empowers returning students and enhances their educational experience. As the ODU team continues to innovate support services for adult learners, they’re driving positive results and ensuring every student has the opportunity to succeed.

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ReUp Education is revolutionizing the enrollment to graduation journey for all adults seeking higher education. Built upon the belief that with the right support, resources, and people in your corner, anything is possible we partner with future-facing institutions and state systems to bring equitable success in higher ed to all.

Let’s start the conversation

Schedule a call with a ReUp team member to learn more about what a ReUp partnership could do for your institution.