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Wednesday, March 29, 2017
America's College Drop-out Problem
For most college hopefuls, the most daunting and labor-intensive part of the college process is admission. It is the topic of countless blogs and self-help books. It has spawned an entire industry of admissions counselors, coaches, and mentors, all promising to offer the foolproof formula for getting accepted. What's lost in all of this commotion are statistics far more sobering than single-digit acceptance rates: the number of students who start college but don't finish.
What if the real social problem is not getting in, but staying in?
Drop-out statistics are notoriously hard to collect, but a soft estimate is that a full 25% of thirty-somethings in the U.S. who have attended college, do not have either an associate's degree or a four-year diploma. Why?
The simple answer is: cost.
One way or another, most middle to high-income students will find a way to finish college. And let's not forget-statistically, it was easier for these kids to become students in the first place. They were not the first in the family to attend college, they went to good high schools, their parents could afford SAT prep workshops and so on.
Lower income students are more likely to have to work during college. They are less likely to have financial help from their parents. They are more likely to take time off from college, and pick up again at a stage in their lives where it is even less affordable. Imagine, for a moment, being a 30-year-old father of three with a mortgage to pay, trying to juggle the workload and costs of college.
Getting additional financial aid towards the back-end of college can be challenging, but if colleges are truly concerned with long-term student success, the drop-out problem merits far more attention. When students don't finish college, society loses. College graduates qualify for higher-paying jobs. They are more likely to pay back student loans, and more likely to send their own kids to college.
This socioeconomic problem looms far more heavily than issues like affirmative action and getting into an Ivy. But it isn't one that too may people are yet having, and that's a whopping loss for everyone.
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