Out of sight, out of mind? Not anymore, for some ‘stopped-out’ students.

Focused on student outcomes and faced with declining enrollment, colleges and universities are exploring ways to bring back “stopped-out” students, those who have withdrawn from college temporarily but intend to re-enroll. “It’s a population that hasn’t been focused on at all,” Anne Kubek, the chief operating officer at ReUp Education, a re-enrollment startup, told Education Dive.

Historically, institutions have prioritized recruiting new enrollees, rather than reaching out to stopped-out students. But with colleges’ desire to boost enrollment—and the recent proliferation of outside edtech partners offering student success services—“that may be changing,” Education Dive reports.

Identifying, engaging, and supporting stopped-out students

Based in San Francisco and launched in 2015, ReUp Education has partnered with colleges and universities to re-enroll more than 8,000 students so far, helping 20-some institutions recover $25 million in tuition revenue. Backed by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ReUp also is partnering with the City University of New York (CUNY) system to test and refine its methods through outreach to about 20,000 stopped-out CUNY students.

ReUp uses machine learning and predictive analytics to review and prioritize colleges’ rosters. It assesses how long students have been stopped out and how many additional credits they would need to graduate, among other factors. ReUp contacts students via text, email, and phone, pairing automated messaging with human contact from 18 success coaches.

The coaches continue to offer support after students re-enroll. “It’s not just good enough for us to bring a student back,” says Kubek. “We need to bring back students who have a pathway and clarity around how they’re going to get through to graduation.”

Prioritizing retention, making re-enrollment less onerous

Other firms are working with colleges to prevent stop-outs in the first place. Austin-based Upswing uses chatbots and other online services to help more than 100 institutions retain first-year, online, and adult students. Portland, Oregon-based InsideTrack prioritizes student coaching and helps colleges find their retention blind spots.

For instance, many institutions overlook planned pauses in students’ degree pursuits—a common cause of stopping out, said Dave Jarrat, InsideTrack’s senior vice president for strategic engagement and growth. If schools did a better job engaging students who know they want to take time off for vacation or to focus on work, “they’d be able to help these students prepare for their stop-out so they could go through it with intention and come back well-prepared,” he said. Jarret added that colleges should keep in mind hurdles unique to certain populations, such as visa delays for international students.

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