Indiana education leaders work to keep college students on track to graduate

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Per a national report on disengaged learners, about 43% of respondents who put a hold on their college studies said they were either extremely or very likely to continue their education at a later point. (Adobe Stock)

College students in Indiana are gearing up to head back to class for the spring semester, but some are weighing whether to continue with higher education.

“Stopping out” is when someone temporarily puts a hold on their studies, and education leaders are concerned it could turn into permanent dropping out.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for higher education, said from 2013 to 2018, roughly 20% to 25% of Indiana’s freshman college students did not proceed to their second year.

“Now that included out-of-state students,” Lubbers explained. “But if you’re talking about only Indiana students, that rate would have been more like 30% who didn’t come back.”

A national study by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association and StraighterLine found about 40% of respondents who put a hold on pursuing secondary education did so for financial reasons. Roughly a third left due to family or personal commitments. Lubbers pointed out there is no one-size-fits-all solution to stopping out, rather, it requires tailored responses for different universities and students.

Lubbers noted there are some top-down approaches the state uses to dissuade stopping out, including financial aid requirements designed to keep students on a four-year path to graduation, and individualized support services while students are in college.

“Some of the reasons why they may be stopping out is they’re not seeing the relevance between what they’re learning and what they want to do,” Lubbers stated. “We need to do a better job of aligning curriculum and what you’re learning with career aspirations.”

Per the national study, more than half of respondents who stopped out of college held full-time jobs.

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