Although we still refer to colleges and universities as four-year schools, the truth is that fewer than 60 percent of students graduate within even six years. More than 40 percent of students who start college don’t finish at all. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which tracks college completion rates in developed countries, places the U.S. behind countries like Luxembourg and Russia. Several common factors contribute to college dropout rates among U.S. students.
5 Low Admissions Standards
Hand in hand with a lack of college preparation is a failure among colleges to screen students’ academic abilities. This is often due to intense competition among low- and mid-tier colleges for the tuition and financial aid dollars from students who need degrees. For-profit colleges, in particular, have garnered a reputation for enrolling practically anyone and then letting them fail after being paid a few semesters’ worth of tuition.
4 Lack of Preparation
Today’s job market almost mandates some kind of post-secondary education. It is harder than ever to earn a livable wage without a college degree. This drives many young people straight from the hallways of high school to the nearest college campus—or the farthest one, as the case may be—where they find themselves woefully unprepared. A disconnect exists between what today’s high schools call “college prepared” and what the colleges expect once the students are enrolled. The gap in college preparation contributes to students becoming frustrated and leaving school.
3 Family Obligations
As with work, many students who start college find themselves stressed out by trying to balance school with their need to care for their family. Whether the reason is financial, time-related or any of several other possibilities, family obligations can take away your ability to concentrate on schoolwork. In most cases, the need to care for your children, parents or other loved ones will come before the need to finish college.
2 Work Conflict
Often, students start college in order to better their career prospects. At the same time, simple math requires many students to hold down a job in order to make ends meet while attending school. A work-school combination, however, may prove to be less than ideal. The stress of working and going to college, a job loss—or improvement—as well as other work-related circumstances can be major factors in a student’s decision to leave college.
The skyrocketing cost of college takes a toll on students’ desire and ability to finish their courses of study. The average price tag for a college degree has increased six-fold since the Reagan administration. Financial aid hasn’t been much help, either. Work study and Pell grants have failed to keep up, leaving many students to rely on loans. When the calendar rolled over to 2011, the total U.S. student loan debt ticked past $1 trillion for the first time. Figures like that sure don’t make you want to slog through the rain to economics class.