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Work, Financial Pressures Are Top Reasons for Stopping Out of College

stick figure climbing staircase to graduation cap

American adults without postsecondary degrees are most likely to withdraw from college due to competing demands of school, employment and other responsibilities, according to a new survey from Lumina Foundation, Strada Education Network and Gallup. And while the majority of respondents said they would like to complete their education, the barriers of work, time and money were their biggest impediments to returning to school.

The survey polled 42,190 adults ages 25-64 who have some college but no degree, and who are not currently enrolled. Seventy-six percent of them are currently in the workforce, and just 19 percent said they are no longer interested in college or don't need to complete their education.

In addition to work-related issues, a lack of academic guidance may also have played a part in students' withdrawal from college. More than half of stop-outs rated their academic and career advising as poor or fair, while most adults who attained an associate or bachelor's degree rated their advising as good or excellent.

What would help incentivize stop-outs to re-enroll? Free community college tuition would have the biggest impact, respondents said, followed by courses and training that fit their schedule, a guaranteed employment outcome (such as a job placement or wage increase) and low-cost tuition. Many also said they would be more likely to enroll in courses or training offered by an employer.

"As policymakers, education and business leaders look to re-engage individuals who have not completed their degree, it's important to remember that they didn't have the support needed to manage school alongside the realities of life," said David Clayton, senior vice president of consumer insights at Strada Education Network, in a statement. "Consumers are telling us that in order to make the investment of time and money needed to return to college, they need learning experiences that are flexible, affordable, and clearly linked to career outcomes."

The full report, "Some College, No Degree: How Individuals Who Attend and Don't Graduate Feel About Education," is available on the Strada Education Network site (registration required).

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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