Why Students Leave College

December 10, 2009

Young adults who attended college but left without graduating are likelier to attribute their departure to the need to work and make money than to the price of college. They also say that to get students like them to go to college, colleges and policy makers should focus as much on flexible scheduling and financial aid for part-time students as on cutting college prices, according to a survey released Wednesday by Public Agenda and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The survey aims to inject the views of students into a set of policy discussions around college access and completion that are often dominated by higher education officials and policy makers, said Jean Johnson, who directs Public Agenda's education efforts. The survey compares responses of 22- to 30-year-olds who earned a postsecondary degree or certificate with those who did not, on a wide range of questions about their educational backgrounds, aspirations and experiences, and finds that the need to work and support themselves and their families often overwhelmed their desire to stay in school. More than a third of students who had left college and wanted to return said they would not be able to even if scholarships covered their tuitions and books.

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