Why college students drop out

With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them from Public Agenda looks at why so many college students never earn a degree. It’s not that students are bored with their classes or reluctant to work hard, the study concludes.

Most students leave college because they are working to support themselves and going to school at the same time. At some point, the stress of work and study just becomes too difficult.

. . . Only about 1 in 10 students who have left college say a major reason they quit was that they didn’t like sitting in class or thought the classes were too difficult.

College dropouts may not realize what they’re losing by not completing a degree, the report says.

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  1. “College dropouts may not realize what they’re losing by not completing a degree”

    Student load debt that can easily reach $60,000? Well, that is if they realize their mistake early enough in their college non-career. College is not the right choice for all students, despite what the “Yes we can!” crowd says.
    I was talking to some students the other day about post-high school plans, and they were aghast when I asked whether they were planning to go to college. The mere suggestion that thay had the choice to do otherwise was taboo.

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    “College dropouts may not realize what they’re losing by not completing a degree”

    I agree with SuperSub — I am constantly trying to remind my students (college students) that they don’t have to be there and that if things aren’t working out for them, there are other options.

    But I also would point out that students who really aren’t smart enough to capitalize on the college experience — who may not finish even if they don’t drop out and who won’t have learned anything even approaching useful if they stay — aren’t losing anything, because they don’t even really have an opportunity to finish and make college pay off.

    Think of it this way: Colleges are never going to calibrate their admissions perfectly. Either there are going to be dropouts or not. If there are NO dropouts, then maybe the school should consider admitting a few more people

    In other words: Dropouts are a necessary consequence of cutting students some slack in admissions. A more generous, open, accessible college experience means more failures.

    Not everyone can be above average, but casting the net wider means that fewer people who CAN take advantage of college in the proper way will be denied the opportunity.

    I wouldn’t worry about it in the slightest — the dropout rate is a GOOD thing.

  3. Mike,

    Interesting point. Accepting it, however, doesn’t mean that any number of dropouts is acceptable. Sure, some small fraction (10%? 15%?) may be good, but close to 40% dropouts we have seems like a large waste of everybody’s time and money.


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