Texas A&M University-Central Texas

A unique emphasis on helping finish college
Texas A&M Central Texas Logo

With limited staff capacity and limited funding, Texas A&M University–Central Texas looked to take an unconventional approach to increasing their enrollment numbers 

texas a&m building students walking outside

Just outside the gates of Fort Hood sits one of the newer public universities in the United States, founded in 2009 with a unique emphasis: helping upperclassmen students finish college. Texas A&M University–Central Texas exclusively offers junior and senior-level coursework at the undergraduate level. Students working towards finishing a bachelor’s degree comprise about 81% of their student population; the remaining 19% are pursuing graduate degrees.

With this focus on upperclassmen, A&M-Central Texas graduates a more significant than average proportion of their student body each year. Approximately 750 students graduate annually out of an unduplicated annual enrollment of 3130. With the possibility of 26% of the current enrollment graduating each year, the stakes are high for keeping additional enrollments coming in. 

Another result of this unique emphasis on helping students finish college is that A&M–Central Texas has become a natural fit for students beyond the “traditional” college-going age. These students are typically working full-time jobs, and many of them are also raising children. Given their proximity to Fort Hood, they’ve also become a natural fit for many active duty and veteran students, who are, in many cases, adult learners. 

Consequently, the institution has developed a keen awareness of the unique challenges these students tend to face. They offer benefits designed to help enable the success of non-traditional students, including a commitment to affordability and access, attention to challenges related to transferring, and the development of partnerships with the local community. 

Catalyzing opportunities to reach students

While they serve a unique segment of students, the challenges facing A&M–Central Texas are familiar across many institutions. They have experienced multiple semesters of flat enrollment, leaving them to pursue opportunities to turn around the trend. Additionally, they are participating in a statewide completion initiative. The “60x30TX” plan seeks to have 60% of the Texas population ages 25 to 34 obtain a higher education credential by 2030. Last but not least, they identified hundreds of students who had some credit but no degree and had discontinued their studies.

texas a&m welcome flag near entrance

With these forces at work, A&M–Central Texas focuses on these stopout students as a strategic opportunity to increase enrollment and positively impact completion rates in their state. Being a relatively small institution with limited staff capacity and financial resources to pursue these students systematically and strategically, they knew they would need to find an unconventional way to connect with this population.

A&M–Central Texas was made aware of the opportunity to partner with ReUp Education through the Texas A&M University System office. The ReUp model aligned with their needs because it allowed quick impact without any upfront cost. 

Clifton Jones, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management, notes: “For a small institution like us, trying to recover stopout students could be very costly. ReUp helped us address a resource limitation issue. It’s a win-win situation. The work begins to recover these students without having costs until they have successfully been recovered. This meant we actually grew our capacity to serve students, during a budget cut, without having to bring on more staff members.” 

“For an institution like us, trying to recover stopout students could be very costly. ReUp helped us address a resource limitation issue. It’s a win-win situation.”

— Clifton Jones

Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management

A&M–Central Texas was also looking at another metric as a key reason to focus on stopout students: student loan default rates. Jones explains: “One of our items in our planning for financial aid is how do we avoid increasing default rates? I see that this partnership fits into that because it helps those students get credentials and opens more employment opportunities to be able to repay that debt and avoid potential default than if they didn’t return and finish the degree.”

Seeing early results with increased enrollment

The partnership produced results immediately upon launch in late spring of 2019. Seven students re-enrolled and completed the Summer 2019 term. From there enrollment kept increasing term-over-term, with Fall 2020 enrollment more than doubling from a year earlier. Seventy-seven stopout students returned in Fall 2020 as a result of the ReUp partnership. Jones considers this a great success: “If we didn’t have the 77 students we have re-enrolled, we would have experienced an enrollment decline this fall.”

But the impact has extended beyond students returning. As ReUp works with students navigating the re-enrollment process, information is shared back with the school about common obstacles, trends, and why the students left in the first place. Jones describes the value of this information: “Early on in the process, even before we started recovering students, I think one of the benefits was the initial information from ReUp after they first started making contact with students. We started learning what they were saying about why they stopped out, what were the challenges they were facing. This got us looking at life balance, academic preparedness, a connectedness to campus, finances – all those which are pretty common, but we got more detail about, ‘Oh, this student had this challenge’ and this might be a little bit more nuanced than what we would get just from them filling out a drop card or the information we collect internally. We even took this information and presented it at the system Board of Regents meeting.”

ReUp not only provides information based on interactions with returning students, but is also able to serve as an ongoing thought partner for deciding how to use this information to clear the path for more students to return. Jones added: “One benefit of working with ReUp is that we are able to openly have dialogue about what issues students might be running into with our processes. This helps us look at how we can better serve each student. Our weekly calls with ReUp are basically allowing us to say ‘Oh, we have this new initiative coming out’ or hear from ReUp what new challenges may be coming up.”

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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. 

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