Survey: Work and family responsibility behind college dropout rate

    The conflict between  work and school was the top reason cited for dropping out of college, with over half (54 percent) of the former students saying this was the major reason they left school. Not being able to afford tuition was the second reason cited, with 31 percent saying this was what led them to drop out.

    The survey revealed some stark differences between those who completed their degrees and those who didn’t.  While most of those who graduated said that they had received financial help from their parents or relatives to pay for college, nearly six in 10 (58 percent) of those who dropped out said that they had not received this kind of help. And while most students who graduated reported that they had received financial aid or scholarships, 69% of  those who dropped out said they did not. The results suggest that many of those who fail to finish college are trying to put themselves through school without help either from their families or the system itself.

    So what would make a difference? The survey asked respondents to rate twelve different proposals that might make it easier for students to graduate, including ideas such as expanding government loans, having more online courses, and offering day care for students who need it. The top ideas picked by those who failed to graduate were allowing part-time students to qualify for financial aid and offering more courses in the evenings, on weekends, and in the summer.  About 8 in 10 of the former students said these two proposals would help a lot.

Jean Johnson is a co-author, of two books: “Who Turned Out the Lights? Your Guided Tour to the Energy Crisis,” and “Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis.”

For over 30 years, Public Agenda has been providing research that bridges the gap between American leaders and what the public really thinks about issues ranging from education to foreign policy to immigration to religion and civility in American life. Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that was founded by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.


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