Federal Report Roundup

College-Completion Barriers

By Debra Viadero — December 15, 2009 1 min read

A national survey suggests that work and family obligations prompt many students to drop out of college and keep them from re-enrolling.

Public Agenda, a nonprofit opinion-research group based in New York City, surveyed more than 600 young adults, ages 22 to 30, who had done at least some college coursework, and compared those who left before getting a degree with the experiences of those who completed a two- or four-year degree.

According to the survey, the No. 1 reason that students gave for leaving school was that they had to work and go to school at the same time, and the pressure of trying to do both took its toll. Among those who dropped out, 58 percent said they were getting no help from their parents in paying tuition, and 69 percent received no scholarships or other financial aid. Among those who got degrees, in comparison, just 37 percent received no financial support from parents.

Fifty-six percent of the nonfinishers also said the need to work full time was a “major” factor preventing them from going back to school, even though 89 percent said they had considered the idea.

The report also says that the college-selection process seems more “happenstance and uninformed” among the students who failed to graduate than it was for students who completed college.

The survey, which was sponsored by the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also draws on data from focus groups held in five cities.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 16, 2009 edition of Education Week as College-Completion Barriers

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