The percentage of students in the US who begin a college degree and complete it within six years has been stagnant at around 62% for the past few years https://www.bankrate.com/loans/student-loans/college-graduation-statistics/. This means that about 38% of students who start college do not complete their degree within six years. Once the pursuit of a college degree exceeds six years, the completion rate is abysmal.
There are a number of factors that contribute to this high dropout rate. One obvious hardship is affordability. Anyone who does not know that college costs have exceeded the inflation rate for two generations is too young to eat solid food. The rising cost of college is a major barrier for many students. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public college has increased by more than 200% since 1985. This has been a prominent hardship for students from lower- and middle-income families. Inability to balance the academic demands of college with the need to work and earn money forces many students to give up on their dream of earning a college degree.
A great many college students struggle while working on their college degrees for reasons that have nothing to do with financial support. College can and should be academically challenging. The coursework can be demanding, and students may need to adjust to their new learning environment. Unfortunately, many students are unable to make that adjustment. The straight A student who never had to study in high school discovers too late that they have terrible study habits. The student who was into everything in highs school over-commits to too many organizations in college and is unable to balance activities with class and study time. The perfectionists can’t bring themselves to hand over assignments that are not worthy of publication and miss important deadlines. These are only a few things that can cause bright and talented students to leave college without a degree.
It is likely that personal challenges are the most frequent cause of students leaving college without their degree. I have witnessed the fallout of receiving bad news from home. Whether it was a sick parent, the death of a best friend or the big breakup of high school sweethearts, it causes an emotional explosion in the mind of the student. The fallout from emotional trauma can be disastrous. There is simply not enough time to process and recover in the span of a semester or quarter for many students and suddenly their academic life is in jeopardy.
If you are considering going to college, it is important to be aware of the challenges that you may face and to plan accordingly. Financial aid, academic support, and counseling are all available to help students succeed in college. Know where to get help before you are faced with a challenge that could cut your education short.