Billions of tax dollars are wasted on college drop-outs who never make it to their second year, concludes an American Institutes for Research study which looked at four-year college students who don’t make it to their second year. The bill for first-year drop-outs came to $9.1 billion in federal, state and local funds from 2003-08.
AIR used Education Department data, which counts only full-time students remaining at the same institution. Transfers count as drop-outs. However, by excluding part-time students, who are less likely to complete a degree, the report could underestimate the cost of college drop-outs.
Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economics professor, thinks the cost is higher, including lost income for the drop-outs’ year in college.
Robert Lerman, an American University economics professor who, like Vedder, questions promoting college for all, said the report fleshes out the reality of high dropout rates. But he said it could just as easily be used to argue that less-prepared, less-motivated students are better off not going to college.
“Getting them to go a second year might waste even more money,” Lerman said. “Who knows?”
The study is flawed, but useful, writes Michael Kirst on College Puzzle. He also thinks counting only full-time students underestimates the cost of drop-outs.