Reasons Leaving College

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In the popular image of college, there’s dorm life, full-time classes, football games, parties, maybe a part-time job — and then, four years later, a degree. But for most students, it doesn’t work out that way. About 2.8 million students enroll in some form of higher education each year. But finishing what they start is a different matter: Only one in five of the students who enroll in two-year institutions graduate within three years. And even at four-year colleges, only two in five complete their degrees within six years. On Wednesday, Public Agenda released an interesting study, “With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them,” on the college dropout problem. (The study was underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.) Public Agenda surveyed more than 600 young adults, 22 to 30, who had done at least some college coursework, and compared those who left before getting a degree with the experiences of those who completed a two- or four-year degree. The differences are vast. Among those who dropped out, nearly six in 10 were getting no help from their parents in paying tuition. Among those who got degrees, more than six in 10 have help from their family in paying tuition. About seven in 10 of the dropouts said they had no scholarship or loan aid; among those who got degrees, only about four in 10 went without such aid. The top reason the dropouts gave for leaving college was that it was just too hard to support themselves and go to school at the same time. Balancing work and school was a bigger barrier than finding money for tuition, they said. In fact, more than a third of the dropouts said that even if they got a grant that covered their books and tuition, it would be hard to go back to school, given their work and family commitments. Among those who completed a degree, 72 percent had household incomes above $35,000. Among the dropouts, more

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