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Why Do Students Drop Out of College?

Mark Kantrowitz

December 17, 2009

Students who self-identified as troublemakers in high school were less likely to graduate, with 17% of students who dropped out saying they were troublemakers, compared with only 6% of students who graduated. Of the students who dropped out, 23% said that they spent too much time socializing and not enough time studying, compared with 14% of students who graduated. 18% of the students who dropped out said that it was hard to pay attention in class, compared with 9% of the students who graduated.

Two-thirds (65%) of the students who dropped out have thought a lot about returning to school. However, many indicated that they might not return even if they got a grant for tuition and books (but not living expenses). The reasons given for not returning included needing to work (56%), family commitments (53%), affordability (26%) and no classes that fit their schedule (17%). Food and shelter are considered more important than education.

Students who did not graduate suggested a variety of solutions for increasing graduation rates: Allowing part-time students to qualify for student aid (81%), providing more flexible weekend/evening classes (78%), cutting college costs by 25% (78%), providing more college loans (76%), provide child care (76%), promoting good study habits in high school (73%) and providing health insurance to students even if they are enrolled part-time (69%). Factors that increase graduation rates also include traditional enrollment immediately after high school graduation, enrolling on a full-time basis and working less while in school.

The study was based on a survey of 614 students aged 22 to 30 with some 2-year or 4-year college experience. The survey was conducted between May 7, 2009 and June 24, 2009. The survey results have a margin of error of +/- 4.8%.

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