Published January 10, 2019

The college dropout rate was always an issue, especially in America, but the last few years have shown that college dropout rate issue advanced into a significant problem. Many have discussed the notion of students not being able to afford college in the first place, but just as many have neglected an equally important question; why are those who can seemingly afford higher education dropping out of college? Are the reasons related to financial difficulties, or is the problem much deeper than that?

Before actually looking into the reasons young adults are increasingly dropping out of college, let’s first look at some numbers for perspective. According to Credit Donkey, one-third of college students drop out entirely, and more than half of the students who stay in college take more than six years to graduate. Here are some more numbers and statistics:

  • Around 57% of students enrolled in college don’t graduate after six years, and 33% out of the 57% drop out entirely. Only 24% of the students actually stay enrolled, full- or part-time.
  • Around 28% of students drop out even before they become a sophomore.
  • 12% of the student transfer to another college for their sophomore year.
  • 43% of students attending a 2-year public school program drop out before obtaining a degree.
  • A soaring 98% of students graduate from Harvard, which is the highest graduation rate.

So, why is the dropout rate number so high? Let’s look at some possible reasons students would rather go home than study:

Financial Difficulties

According to a study conducted by Public Agenda, the majority of the students, 54% to be specific, leave college because of financial reasons. They can’t either support themselves financially, or they can’t balance out the work and the studying. So, having to work is the top reason students leave school, but even more staggering is the information that the cost of the textbooks and other fees besides tuition affected them so much financially that they would rather choose to drop out entirely.

It is hard for students to balance between two major responsibilities at such a young age. About 45% of students in four-year colleges work more than 20 hours a week, and despite their efforts to balance out working, classes, studying and exams, the majority of the student simply cannot deal with such high-stress levels. Not to mention that the college costs have increased more than 400%, while the family income increased by only 150%. So, financial difficulties are the leading cause of a high college dropout rate without a doubt.

Poor Academic Preparation

It is a well-known fact that student’s lack of readiness in college stems from poor high school preparations, especially in fields like language and mathematics. In the United States, college students, therefore, drop out of college in such an extreme amount mostly because they are merely the victims of poor introduction to and preparation for higher education before they attend college. In numbers, that would make around 60% of students who are not ready for college courses.

Therefore, the academic demands in the very first year of college are too much for the newcomers. They have to struggle through new, unknown topics and courses, at the same time study and prepare for the finals, write down their first thesis (correctly the first try), and also, let’s not forget, the majority has to work.  All these factors are the key stressors in college students and for many, a reality-check when it comes to their skills and capability. Not to mention that stress is so high in first-year college students that it can be harmful if they don’t adopt healthy ways to manage it. According to Thrive Global, there are several ways students can cope with stress and pressure, that include a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising and staying away from energy boosters. Moreover, they can use numerous apps and a descriptive essay example that can help them develop skills and stay organized.

Competitive and De-Motivating Environment

So, going to college stands for acquiring a degree that would help one acquire a job easily on the market. Therefore, all of the other students are a student’s competitors. Once a student understands that college is a ‘battle royal,’ they can be sure college will become an utterly de-motivating environment in an instant.

Of course, things are not that hostile and dangerous at colleges, but that mindset simply stays with students. Especially, if there is a lack of peer collaboration, the absence of social cues or fear of isolation; all of these are either internal or external motivation barriers for students who eventually, into the first year, become bored and de-motivated to keep going with their studies.

Lack of Support and Counseling

Many education experts believe that students don’t receive enough support from their professors throughout their college journey. The first year of college is unquestionably the hardest for them for many reasons. Therefore, inadequate college counseling and support system can drive students away under the pressure of college obligations and the need to fit in with other students. Students who don’t get help or support at college are more likely to drop out.

However, the issue with counseling seems to even go back to high schools. Many studies and research conducted with high school students have shown that teens don’t receive help and support. The public high schools are also usually understaffed and too overworked to be able to focus on each student individually. This problem then seems to translate to college institutions, creating the outcome of an unprecedented college dropout rate, or depression and anxiety in college students. It is essential for the students to make a smooth transition between high school and college, but without any adequate help, that transition is not possible for them.

The solution for those who would like to stay in college:

  • If there are financial difficulties, there are also ways a student and their family can deal with it, for example: a financial plan starting in high school, scholarships and grants, financial aid packages, community college 2-year program where tuition is inexpensive, etc.
  • If there is lack of academic preparation, here’s what a student can do: organization is the key for success; mapping out and creating a study schedule should help with time; taking notes and paying attention during class is extremely useful for studying or to catch up with the material.
  • If there is an issue with depression or anxiety related to college obligations or connecting with other students: college counselors can help with advice on how to deal with stress and mental challenges; students can use Facebook groups and social media to connect to other students and make friends; they can choose between smaller or larger campuses and colleges in regards to their personalities; college tours are a great way to get an insight into the school’s vibe.

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