Rutgers Report Calls for Policy Changes, Remove Obstacles For Those Who Never Finished College

March 20, 2012



Increasing degree attainment can drive economic growth.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. –  Even in New Jersey’s highly educated workforce, where 44% of adults have at least a two‐year degree, almost a fifth of adults age 25‐64 have started college but never finished.

Inexpensive policy changes can enable the state’s agencies and colleges to improve college completion rates in the state and simultaneously meet workforce goals, according to a new report, Close, but No Degree,to be released by the Center for Women and Work (CWW) at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University on Thursday, March 22.

“An educated workforce is important to New Jersey’s economic viability,”says Heather McKay, co-author of the report and director of CWW’s Innovative Training and Workforce Development Research and Programs. “With an associate’s degree and every additional credential after, workers are given the opportunity to earn more and improve their career prospects. Yet, despite benefits to workers and the overall economy, graduation rates are not growing fast enough to meet expected demand.”

Close, but No Degree advocates better integration of higher education opportunities into the state workforce development system, whichcould expand options for the 18% of New Jersey workers who have some college credits, but never obtained a degree. For example, the report recommends expanding an existing policy that helps workers receiving unemployment insurance gain college credit.

Cecilia Grobard, a Watchung, NJ resident, isamong the beneficiaries of this policy. After losing her job of 31 years in the airline industry, she used the unemployment insurance program’s benefits to complete a bachelor’s degree, graduating from Rutgers in 2004 with high honors.

“It is a wonderful sense of accomplishment that would have been financially difficult for me to do without this benefit,” says Grobard, who graduated from Rutgers on the same day as her daughter, Talia, and immediately got a job as an Italian teacher at North Plainfield High School in Plainfield, NJ.

Other recommendations include:

·         Improving a 2007 lawdesigned to facilitate the move from community colleges to New Jersey public four-year colleges and universities so that credit transfer is more seamless.

·         Identifying students poised to complete college, specifically those who lack 12 credits or less (near-completers) and provide them with flexible options and support services, such as online learning and counseling.

·         Developing a formal collaboration between the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and Higher Education.

·         Providing assistance to help students succeed in degree programs, including strong case management and alternative routes to earning college credit, such as conferring credit for work experience.

·         Identifying mechanisms to fund tuition and programs for adult students based on need.

The report, co-authored by McKay and CWW Postdoctoral Research Associate Elizabeth Nisbet, was funded by the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative to strengthen state policies to better prepare America’s working families for a more secure economic future.

“When workers have invested so much in degrees they were unable to finish, it makes good policy and financial sense to devise solutions that help them achieve their goals,” says Nisbet.


Founded in 1993, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations’ Center for Women and Work (CWW) is an innovative leader in research and programs that promote gender equity, a high-skill economy, and reconciliation of work and well-being for all. CWW addresses women’s advancement in the workplace, conducts cutting-edge research on successful public and workplace policies, provides technical assistance and programs to educators, industry, and governments, and engages issues that directly affect the living standards of New Jersey’s and the nation’s working families. Areas of concentration include: Workforce Development, Education and Career Development, Women’s Leadership and Advancement, and Working Families.

For more information on CWW, visit:

Renée Walker


Amber E. Hopkins-Jenkins
732-932-7084, Ext.601