How Many Students Drop Out of College & What Can We Do About It?

College-bound students and their parents rarely think about the possibility of dropping out. But the truth is 1 in 5 students will drop out of college without finishing their degree after six years.

For students who remain, only 60% actually manage to graduate in 6 years. The remaining students either transfer or continue to persist in their degree.

Getting through college can be tough! Student loans can add up, and the longer your student takes to graduate, the more onerous their debt burden can become. 

Graduation Rates 101

According to the US Department of Education, the percentage of students attending a four-year institution and graduating within four years is just under 40%. After five years? 52%. Only 60% graduate within six years. 

Granted, some of these students may continue attending school after six years, but as you can see from the trend, the longer it takes your student to graduate, the less likely it is to happen.

In a system where nearly half of the participants don’t complete their chosen program, anyone can see that a vast amount of money and time is being wasted.

Factors for Success

What can students do to improve their chance of graduating on time?

What can students do to improve their chance of graduating on time?

So what can you do as a supportive parent to ensure your student succeeds in their college career? Luckily there are some known factors that can help you determine the likely outcome.

According to the US Department of Education, there is a direct correlation between acceptance selectivity and graduation rate. In general the more selective the school, the higher the graduation rate will be.

Although there isn’t a hard and fast rule about this, the thinking is that students who are able to perform well academically are going to be students who will have the ability and drive to stick to their programs until completion.

For example, a student attending an institution where they have a 90% or more acceptance rate has a 36% chance of graduating within six years. On the other hand, a student attending a college with a 25% or less acceptance rate has 89% chance of graduating within six years.

Luckily for you, College Factual makes it easy to figure out how selective a college is. Just find a school you are interested in and check the Entering Class Stats under the Applying tab. 

Another factor in determining graduation success rates is the type of school. Private schools have the highest levels of students graduating within six years – about 65% versus Public institutions at 58%.

For-profit institutions typically have the lowest graduation rates averaging just 27% by six years.

Providing Guidance

Choosing the right major.

What can you do to help your student succeed? One of the most important things a student can do is trying to pick the right major. Students who switch majors mid-course will add on time needed for them to graduate.

Ask your child if they've thought about what major and career they may want to pursue. Are their thoughts and ideas about their future course of study realistic for their temperament and abilities? If your daughter really wants to be a vet but she hates touching animals… she may be better off choosing a more research-heavy career that doesn't involve as much hands-on work. 

Choosing the right school.

Another important factor in your student’s likelihood of successfully graduating is the school they attend. Students are really much more likely to succeed if they choose a school that is a good match for them all-around. This means an academic atmosphere that is chalenging, but not overwhelming, a social environment they feel comfortable in, and costs that don't overburden them with too many loans.

Pay attention to the criteria mentioned earlier such as selectivity and the type of school, but if your student hates the campus and the people around them their chance of success will be much lower than if they find the ideal campus. Make sure your student finds a place they can really connect with by visiting campuses and even taking virtual tours.

With this information in hand you should be able to help steer your student to success.