SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson Announces Re-Enroll Program Brings Back More Than 5700 Students to Complete Their Degrees

August 13, 2019

First-of-its-Kind Program Commits to Giving Students the Critical Resources and Encouragement Needed to Return to School, Succeed in Class, and Finish Their Degrees

Research Shows Students will Earn Substantially More and Are Less Likely to Default on Loans if They Resume Studies

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson today announced that SUNY has successfully re-enrolled 5,738 students into college as a result of a first-of-its-kind program called Re-Enroll to Complete. This creative, proactive approach is not only encouraging more students back into the classroom, it’s providing key, additional academic and financial support services that help them succeed. Nearly 95 percent of the students went back to a SUNY campus.

“Re-Enroll to Complete is another example of the commitment SUNY makes to its students to help them achieve and excel, regardless of personal circumstances," said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. “The students we targeted are all student borrowers, who by withdrawing from school, are at greater risk of lowering their future income potential and becoming delinquent on their loans. SUNY created this program to encourage re-enrollment, and as the numbers show, it’s working."

More than half of all student borrowers who returned to college went back as full-time students, with the majority resuming studies at their original campus. Another 21 percent went back half time. The rest attended three-quarter time or less than half time, and 136 students graduated with a degree. The data was measured between March 2018 and May 2019 and involved 52 campuses.

In that time, Re-Enroll to Complete had a success rate of nearly 20 percent, which far exceeds the less than one percent success rate of federal student loan servicers.

The program works by sending targeted messages to student borrowers during the six-month grace period before repayment begins on federal student loans. The emails encourage the student borrowers to return to college, offer assistance with paying for college, and provide a list of options for re-enrolling, including attending college online. The emails also remind the students that their loans are due shortly, and that securing a college degree can guarantee higher earnings in the future.

Re-Enroll to Complete is designed to help prevent students from defaulting on their student loans by ensuring they return to college and earn a degree, which virtually guarantees higher earnings. A report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that a bachelor’s degree is worth $2.3 million, compared to a high school diploma, which is valued at $1.3 million.

Students who attain graduate degrees earn even more. A student with a master’s degree has median lifetime earnings of $2.7 million, while someone with a doctoral degree earns $3.3 million. Having a college degree is also linked to better health and greater longevity.

Based on the recent success of the program, SUNY plans to expand the program to all 64 campuses. Other plans include delivering emails in Spanish, establishing a call center for students to contact with questions, and linking the initiative to other SUNY programs such as Guided Pathways and the Educational Opportunity Program, which support student success. In the future, the program may also enlist the services of tutors and mentors to help students become readjusted to campus life.

Re-Enroll to Complete is just one more way SUNY works to tackle the national problem of student debt. Nationwide, more than 44 million borrowers have collectively incurred over $1.5 billion in student loans.

Thanks to SUNY’s commitment to making college affordable, the percentage of full-time SUNY students at four-year campuses graduating with debt has fallen, from 65 percent in 2015 to 63 percent in 2017. Compared to peers across the state, SUNY students tend to borrow less, assuming $26,658 in debt in 2017 compared to almost $31,000 among all New Yorkers.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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Holly Liapis
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