With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them: Myths and Realities About Why So Many Students Fail to Finish College


Public Agenda (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Only 20 percent of students at two-year colleges graduate within three years and only 40 percent of students attending four-year schools complete degrees wthin six years. The purpose of this study, which involved interviews with more than 600 students between the ages of 22 and 30, was to find out the reasons.

Many critics attribute the college drop-out rate to students not having proper work ethics. According to this study, college students drop out because they are working while going to school, and the lack of time and their inability to deal with stress force them to leave. Though many students have scholarships or student loans or are being supported by their parents, most young people who drop out are struggling to pay for school on their own. Most students who fail to graduate also had a very limited choice of schools. And rather than undervaluing the importance of having a college degree, most of the students in the study realize the value of having a degree but may not always understand the impact of failing to finish their studies.

Eighty-one percent of the interviewees who did not complete their degrees said it would help if part-time students were given more financial aid. Eighty-three percent of graduates said they’d like to see costs cut by 25 percent. All of the students – those who graduated and those who didn’t – are in favor of higher education institutions offering more evening and weekend courses, internship programs outside the classroom and opportunities to meet with advisers.

Free, 52 pages.



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