Finish College

“Myths and Realities About Why So Many Students Fail To Finish College.”  The report is based on interviews with 600 students between the ages of 22 and 30.

It starts with a statistic to startle:

“According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 20 percent of young people who begin their higher education at two-year institutions graduate within three years.  There is a similar pattern in four-year institutions, where about 4 in 10 students receive a degree within six years.”

Then, it blasts through the stereotype that many of us might have about college students being 18 to 22 year olds and attending a 4-year residential institution (they represent only about 25% of the college population).  Here are some other demographic information about college students:

  • Among students in four-year schools, 45 percent work more than 20 hours a week.
  • Among those attending community colleges, 6 in 10 work more than 20 hours a week, and
    more than a quarter work more than 35 hours a week.
  • Twenty-three percent of college students have dependent children.

The report then proceeds to highlight five myths and realities of why students don’t complete:

MYTH NO. 1: Most students go to college full-time. If they leave without a degree, it’s because
they’re bored with their classes and don’t want to work hard.

REALITY NO. 1: Most students leave college because they are working to support themselves and going to school at the same time. At some point, the stress of work and study just becomes too difficult.

  • Key statistic:  2/3 of those who dropped out have thought a lot about going back to school but been constrained by concerns about working and going to school at same time.

MYTH NO. 2: Most college students are supported by their parents and take advantage of a multitude of available loans, scholarships, and savings plans.

REALITY NO. 2: Young people who fail to finish college are often going it alone financially.  They’re essentially putting themselves through school.

  • Key statistic:  Higher percentage of students who didn’t complete took out loans (69%) compared to those who did graduate (51%), which is the bad-bad quadrant of “have loans but have not improved earning power.”


MYTH NO. 3: Most students go through a meticulous process of choosing their college from an array of alternatives.

REALITY NO. 3: Among students who don’t graduate, the college selection process is far more limited and often seems happenstance and uninformed.

  • Key statistic:  Among those who did not graduate, 2/3 chose their school because it was close to where they lived or worked.

MYTH NO. 4: Students who don’t graduate understand fully the value of a college degree and
the consequences and trade-offs of leaving school without one.

REALITY NO. 4: Students who leave college realize that a diploma is an asset, but they may
not fully recognize the impact dropping out of school will have on their future.

So, what policies would help those who left return to school?

“Eight in 10 of those who did not complete college supported two proposals that they believe would make college graduation feasible: 1) making it possible for part-time students to be eligible for more financial aid (81 percent said this would help “a lot”); and 2) offering more courses in the evening and on weekends so that they could continue working while taking classes (78 percent said this would help “a lot”).”

  • The next three most cited policies by non-completers were:
    • Cut college costs by 25% (78% of non-completers)
    • Have the government offer more college loans (76%)
    • Provide day care for students who need it (76%)

The report closes with a quintessential American yearning for a better life for its children:

“Even though they themselves left before finishing—and chances are that many of those we spoke to will never return to higher education—fully 97 percent of young American parents who dropped out of college say that they will encourage their own children go to college.”



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About Nathan and Joanna Cornett

We are a from San Diego California, currently on a mission trip in Guatemala. Nathan has worked as a youth pastor, teen center director, college advisor, and now missionary. Joanna has worked at LaBahn's Landscape for 7 years in the field, sales, and as the Vice President, she started the Hispanic ministry at Foothills Church, and has worked in youth ministry, she is now working as a missionary. We are both passionate about youth, worship, and missions.

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