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Your state has a drop-out problem!

Many of us have heard about the high number of students who drop out from high school. It’s a growing, shameful trend in our country. Did you know that that we also have a college dropout problem? When I mention this data to people, they are often surprised.

If you attended college 20+ years ago, you were keenly aware that college was a 4-year endeavor. Even for students who transferred, the plan was to attend one school for 2 years, then move on to another campus for the latter 2 years. Today, we often hear the college years discussed as a 6-year cycle. I don’t know about you . . . but the thought of paying for 6 years of college sounds even more daunting than paying for four. That’s a deep-pocket investment. A protracted college experience can be expensive for families and fellow taxpayers.

In too many cases though, students are dropping out of college, particularly after freshman year. A new study by American Institutes for Research finds that states are losing millions of dollars due to college dropouts. The table below, adapted from shows the rankings for all states.

Some critics of “college for all” policies argue that these low graduation rates prove their case. There’s some merit in their proposition. The other issue that we don’t acknowledge enough is that the breakdown in college graduation begins in the application process. Students are not spending enough time and consideration in the college selection process. There are far too many instances of students choosing colleges for these reasons:

  • Location – For no other reasons, it’s either near home (within comfort zone) or far enough that parents can’t drop-in.
  • Friends – An over-reliance on opinions of peers cloud ability to compare campuses fairly.
  • Parents – Parents often choose the colleges for the student. (Risky for parents and often leads to resentment by the student.)

The college selection process, instead, should start with students considering those schools that will be a good fit for their own needs, whatever those may be. There are over 3,800 colleges and universities in the US. Some campuses are very rural while others are in the heart of major urban centers. Other campuses may offer tremendous support for students with learning differences while others do not even acknowledge students outside whatever is considered the norm. Several campuses offer unique scheduling options. There are college campuses that are defined by their Greek life participation or perhaps their great food. For any college being considered, students should ask, “Is this a place where I can thrive?”

Freshman year of college is a challenging year and many colleges do their best to assist students with their transition. In some cases, though, students may need more that 2-3 months in between senior year of high school and college. Taking a year after high school to pursue other interests, mature, or travel can make all the difference that a student needs to be able to fully engage in college the following year. Many colleges will support a request for deferred admissions. In hindsight, I could have had a richer college experience if I had deferred a year. Back then, the support wasn’t there. Today, however, there are numerous structured programs that offer meaningful year-long experiences for students to pursue.

Freshman retention rate College Graduation rate Cost to taxpayers (in Millions)
Alabama (AL) 76.40% 47.40% $69.90
Alaska (AK) 70.70% 25.00% $11.90
Arizona (AZ) 77.70% 54.70% $54.30
Arkansas (AR) 69.60% 41.20% $34.40
California (CA) 84.30% 62.00% $228.80
Colorado (CO) 76.30% 53.40% $79.00
Connecticut (CT) 83.70% 56.20% $24.80
Delaware (DE) 85.10% 70.70% $14.80
District of Columbia (DC) 39.50% 17.20% $6.70
Florida (FL) 85.60% 59.20% $57.30
Georgia (GA) 80.80% 51.00% $60.00
Hawaii (HI) 75.10% 50.90% $11.10
Idaho (ID) 63.50% 32.70% $24.50
Illinois (IL) 80.20% 59.50% $78.90
Indiana (IN) 77.10% 52.50% $110.30
Iowa (IA) 83.30% 65.70% $25.70
Kansas (KS) 74.90% 54.80% $38.20
Kentucky (KY) 72.30% 46.30% $64.20
Louisiana (LA) 71.50% 39.80% $71.80
Maine (ME) 72.40% 50.60% $14.90
Maryland (MD) 82.30% 63.00% $46.80
Massachusetts (MA) 79.00% 52.70% $50.00
Michigan (MI) 80.30% 59.10% $124.50
Minnesota (MN) 78.50% 53.20% $57.40
Mississippi (MS) 75.20% 49.30% $25.50
Missouri (MO) 76.00% 53.80% $56.50
Montana (MT) 69.30% 41.10% $17.00
Nebraska (NE) 77.10% 54.30% $20.00
Nevada (NV) 75.10% 43.10% $20.60
New Hampshire (NH) 83.90% 65.40% $10.40
New Jersey (NJ) 84.70% 63.60% $43.80
New Mexico (NM) 71.30% 41.00% $19.80
New York (NY) 82.50% 56.80% $117.40
North Carolina (NC) 81.20% 58.80% $102.80
North Dakota (ND) 77.00% 47.00% $14.20
Ohio (OH) 79.20% 56.10% $123.50
Oklahoma (OK) 70.60% 46.10% $42.50
Oregon (OR) 76.70% 54.10% $27.30
Pennsylvania (PA) 81.10% 61.70% $133.40
Puerto Rico (PR) 83.50% 42.70% $29.30
Rhode Island (RI) 79.20% 53.60% $10.90
South Carolina (SC) 78.80% 59.50% $47.30
South Dakota (SD) 73.90% 46.40% $11.60
Tennessee (TN) 72.00% 44.20% $79.60
Texas (TX) 74.40% 48.90% $238.00
Utah (UT) 73.40% 47.70% $24.50
Vermont (VT) 86.00% 71.60% $7.80
Virgin Islands (VI) 72.80% 29.20% $1.70
Virginia (VA) 86.10% 67.30% $60.20
Washington (WA) 83.50% 66.40% $50.00
West Virginia (WV) 72.30% 45.10% $29.00
Wisconsin (WI) 79.30% 58.60% $65.20
Wyoming (WY) 72.50% 56.90% $7.70

About This Blog

This blog is valued by busy parents of college-bound teens. The topics covered in these posts are mined from years of listening to parents talk about their dreams for their children’s education.

This blog is written from the heart… as it’s my passion and life calling!

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