Tag Archives: United States

Why Students Drop Out Of College

14 Aug

A large percentage of the world’s best universities are located in the US. Cutting edge research happens, a large number of master’s and doctorate degrees are awarded, patents are filed, students from all over the world come to study and work, huge amounts of money is invested in research and development, and innovative ideas germinate here in the US. The world is moving from a manufacturing-based to a knowledge-based economy. The manufacturing jobs have already moved to China and, in all probability, are not coming back. Data shows that the higher the education level, the higher is the income, and lower is the unemployment rate.

So why does the US have the best universities but also the highest dropout rates?

There are several reasons:

  1. Huge expenses: College has become too expensive while the income in real terms has stagnated or even gone down. This is the most common reason for students dropping out of colleges. The colleges are increasing the tuition and living expenses, mainly because they can. They don’t follow the laws of Economics 101 – the demand is more, supply is more, but the price is not going down.
  2. Work-study balance: For many students who work to support their college education or family, balancing work with studies doesn’t work out well.
  3. Lack of academic preparedness: Students who are graduating high school are not academically prepared to handle the rigors of college. The alleged failure of public education system and dropout rates is another cause of concern.
  4. Unable to handle the stress: College education is hard. There is too much reading, writing, group work, and thinking. And too many extra-curricular activities. Less time-on-task leads to poor grades, which further leads to low self-esteem and even less studying.
  5. Mismatch with the major: Some students major in subjects that they are not interested in, and they realize this fact too late.
  6. Atmosphere shock: Leaving home and residing in a college dorm is too shocking for some students who are not able to cope with this change.
  7. Social misfit: Leaving school friends and making new friends in college is too difficult for some students. The loneliness is difficult to overcome.
  8. Health problems: Bad health, life is difficult.
  9. Mental/emotional issues: It could happen because of any number of reasons.

What can we do to help at-risk students stay with the education system and not drop out?

Related readings
Colleges Are Failing in Graduation Rates
High College Dropout Rate Threatens U.S. Growth
College Completion: Who graduates from college, who doesn’t, and why it matters
College Dropouts: 10 Reasons Why Students Quit School


Best Universities, Most Dropouts

22 Dec

In 2009, President Barack Obama talked about the US losing its competitive edge, and wanted to increase the college graduation rates. The competition, he said, would come from developing countries like China and India. Manufacturing jobs have mostly gone to China and customer service to India and other Asian countries. More and more private companies have been setting up Research and Development centers in emerging economies where they can find cheap and talented workforce.

The public school system are not delivering the results despite the spending (as a percentage of GDP) being higher than other developed countries. Funding to schools are being cut, teachers are being fired, and mediocrity has taken over. The No Child Left Behind Act has also played its part.

  • There are about 3 million students graduating from high school each year.
  • Approximately 70% (2.1 million) are enrolling in college within two years of graduating from school.
  • The total undergraduate enrollment is 17.5 million.
  • Only 57% are completing a bachelor’s degree within 6 years.
  • 43% students fail to complete a bachelor’s degree in 6 years or are dropping out.

Per a US News report, 6 of the top 10 universities, 13 of the top 20, and  a large proportion of  the world’s best universities are located in the US. If the US has the best universities in the world, why are so many students failing to graduate from college? The dropout rate in the US is the highest among the OECD (also the most developed) countries.

College Enrollment and Graduation Rates

14 Dec

Here are some interesting facts about college enrollment and graduation rates.

Graduation Rates
High school graduates per year                                  3 million
High school graduates enrolling in college            70% (2.1 million)
Bachelor’s degree graduates (in 2008-09)              1.6 million

Undergraduate enrollment rates
Total                           17.5 million
Male                            45%
Female                       55%
Full-time                   11 million
Part-time                  6.5 million

Public                                          13.5 million
Private (not-for-profit)        2.5 million
Private (for profit)                 1.5 million

4-year                                          10 million
Full time: 8 million / Part time: 2 million
Public: 6.2 million / Private: 3.8 million

2-year                                          7.5 million
Full time: 3.2 million / Part time 4.3 million
Public: 7.1 million / Private: 0.4 million

Income Level
Low income                        55%
Middle income                  67%
High income                       84%

Asian                90%
White                71%
Black                 63%
Hispanic          62%

Male             45%
Female        55%

Completion Rates
Completed a bachelor’s degree in 6 years    57%
White                                     57%
Hispanic                               44%
Black                                       39%
Public                                    55%
Private not-for-profit     65%
Private forprofit                22%

Related readings
College Completion

Town Hall With Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

15 Nov

In June 2009, I’d learned about the new secretary of education in Obama administration, Arne Duncan, when he’d said that children need to spend more time at school. I’d written about my views on his proposal “Does the Length of a School Year Help Increase Competitiveness?” I was opposed to increasing the length of the school day though I supported increasing the length of the school year.

Two and a half years later, I got a chance to attend a town hall with the secretary of education at the Mason Intermediate School on November 9, 2011. He talked with students and parents about what ails the US education system and how he is planning to address some of the issues. I was amazed by the depth of his knowledge of the education system, which, of course, you’d expect from the highest ranking official in education in the country.

Some of his comments:

  • Countries like India and China are out-educating us and out-competing us.
  • We need to overhaul our education system to remain competitive in future.
  • We have invested a lot of money in the last three years in education.
  • We are dropping lower on reading and science and math tests compared with other developed countries such as Singapore and Norway.
  • In other countries, the teaching profession is the choice of the top third of a graduating class whereas in the US, it’s usually people at the bottom.
  • We provided three meals a day to many children in Chicago to make sure they focus of studies. It’s hard to pay attention when you’re hungry.
  • The federal grant is only about 10-15% of a school’s budget. About 70% comes from the state and 15-20% from the city.
  • When there is a budget shortfall, the extracurricular activities are cut first. But these activities are the reason many children come to school. To lower the dropout rates, we have to keep them engaged.
  • The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, passed in George W. Bush’s term, is having a negative impact on schools. The schools are being forced to improve the results on standardized tests and lower the dropout rates. This has forced the schools to lower their testing standards and adopt dubious practices to make them look good.
  • We need to hire and retain good teachers. Many good teachers leave the profession because they get frustrated with the system.
  • There are more English-learning students in China than English-speaking people in the US.
  • Other countries are graduating more students from college than the US.
  • We need to send more students from schools to college, whether it’s a four-year college or a two-year vocational college.