A recent report by nonpartisan research group Public Agenda claims that students tend to drop out over issues with going to school while working. The study, which was underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, states that only 20% of students at 2-year colleges, like community colleges, graduate within three years. Also, only 40% of students at 4-year colleges and universities graduate within six years of starting their college degree.
Many issues contribute to the low college education completion rates. Among them: the increasing cost of tuition and other college expenses. However, the top reason students cite for leaving their college degree programs is that they couldn’t juggle the stress of working and going to school simultaneously.
According to the study, which was conducted through surveys with 617 students between age 22 and 30 who had some college education, 45% of students at 4-year schools worked more than 20 hours a week. At community colleges, the numbers were even higher: 60% worked more than 20 hours and 25 percent worked more than 35 hours per week. The students claimed that working was mandatory to help pay off tuition and keep college debt low, but working also took time away from college.
When asked what factors could have helped them complete a college degree, the students who dropped out proposed more financial aid for part-time students and more courses offered in evenings and on weekends. Increased aid would have allowed students to cut down their work schedule, while flexibility with course times would have made it easier for students to accommodate their work schedule.
As part of their study, Public Agenda analyzed four common myths about why students leave school and gave four realities, given their data. Here are the myths and realities, according to the organization in their report, titled Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them:
Myth #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 #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.
Myth #2: Most college students are supported by their parents and take advantage of a multitude of available loans, scholarships and savings plans. Reality #2: Young people who fail to finish college are often going it alone financially. They’re essentially putting themselves through school.
Myth #3: Most students go through a meticulous process of choosing their college from an array of alternatives. Reality #3: Among students who don’t graduate, the college selection process is far more limited and often seems happenstance and uninformed.
Myth #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 #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.
Read the full report on the Public Agenda website.
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