Over 40 million Americans started college, but did not finish
A new study shows the number of students who “stopped out” before getting a college degree is higher – and fewer former students are re-enrolling.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reveals the total number of students who started college but didn’t finish now tops 40 million, and that’s a 3.6% increase from the previous year.
The report says colleges and states are missing opportunities to reengage them.
Center Executive Director Doug Shapiro said growing numbers of stop-outs and fewer returning students have contributed to the broader enrollment declines in recent years.
“Their success outcomes declined compared to last year’s report among students who re-enrolled,” said Shapiro. “Of those re-enrolled 7,000 fewer completed a credential, and 23,000 fewer stayed enrolled – or ‘persevered,’ as we call it – into their second year.”
Indiana fared slightly better than other states with 24,000 students stopping-out of college since the last report – making up almost 2% of a growing group in America.
Shapiro said community colleges are the most common type of institution where students with some college were last enrolled, re-enrolled or obtained their first credential.
Shapiro said all regions of the country have seen a drop in completed degrees. The outcomes also fell among those who re-enrolled.
“Even though the rates of re-enrollment are relatively low,” said Shapiro, “the fact that this population is increasing – whereas in most states, the population of traditional high school graduates, that we normally think of as a source of college enrollments – is declining.”
Shapiro said nearly all states have post-high-school goals to increase the education level of their residents, acknowledging the need for a more highly educated workforce.
Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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