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This is awesome for folks who never got to finish college, for whatever reason – and sure helps with their job search!

WSJ:  Project Win-Win!  

Travis Turauski, a 34-year-old commercial roofer in Wisconsin, received a letter last year that offered him an incredible-sounding deal—an associate degree without having to crack open another book.  “At first I didn’t know if it was real or whatever,” says Mr. Turauski. “You get a lot of junk mail these days.”

The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point was writing to tell Mr. Turauski that he was among 228 former students who had left the school without earning a bachelor’s degree but who met the requirements for an associate degree. All he had to do was say yes.

The school’s letter was part of a foundation-funded experiment called Project Win-Win using data-mining techniques made practical only in the past few years to track down people who left college early and award them credentials they earned without knowing it. The 60 participating colleges found more than 6,700 students already eligible for an associate degree and about 20,000 who needed no more than 12 credits to finish. So far, the schools have tracked down and awarded associate degrees to more than 4,500 former students, including 143 at Stevens Point.

“It’s a win for the students, and it’s a win for the institutions,” says Cliff Adelman, senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a research group in Washington, D.C. The institute produced the four-year project at a cost of $2 million with the participating schools, most of which were community colleges. The schools improve their graduation rates, and the students have a shot at higher earning potential, Mr. Adelman says. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, U.S. workers over the age of 25 earned median annual wages of about $62,000 with associate degrees in 2010, while those with some college but no degree earned about $44,000.

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