The cost of college dropouts

Date posted: November 9, 2010

More people are going to college, but all aren’t finishing. Almost 30 percent of college freshmen don’t make it to their second year. And only 60 percent of students graduate from a four-year college within six years. North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist Mike Walden says this poses a major cost to the country.

There are costs “certainly in terms of lost potential of these students who if they had finished college presumably would have been more productive and gotten higher rates of pay. But now we have a study that tells us how much this is costing us in terms of public money — money that government — federal government, state governments — use to support students who don’t make it to year two in college.

“And right now the bill comes to $10 billion a year; $10 billion a year has been spent or is being spent on first-year college students who drop out and don’t go on to their second year. Now breaking this down by states, North Carolina actually ranks in the top 10 of states in terms of these costs, primarily due to the fact that our state legislature and governor are very generous in terms of their support of students.

“The big question, of course, is what do you do about this — how do you turn these numbers around? Various remedies have been offered — from things like better high-school preparation, more support for first year students in college (N.C. State does that) — and perhaps, perhaps, linking the tuition a student pays to their staying in school.”

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