College Drop-Outs Are Costing American Taxpayers Billions

Barry Lenson

Everybody loses when students drop out of high school. The federal and state governments lose, because they have thrown away money that was supposed to educate those students. Schools that can’t keep kids in school lose funding. And students who have dropped out lose the most of all – the ability to earn more and enjoy a more secure future.

Now it turns out that colleges have a major drop-out problem too.  According to Finishing the First Lap: The Cost of First-Year Student Attrition in America’s Four-Year Colleges and Universities, a report that Mark  Schneider wrote for the American Institutes for Research,  college drop-outs are costing Americans billions of tax dollars.  To quote from the report:

“Most students attend public colleges and universities, which are subsidized by taxpayers through state appropriations and through state grants to students. Nationwide, these subsidies approach $10,000 per student per year; in some states the average is higher.”

How much money is being lost? Let’s quote again from the report:

  • States appropriated almost $6.2 billion to colleges and universities to help pay for the education of students who did not return for a second year.
  • States gave over $1.4 billion and the Federal government over $1.5 billion in grants to students who did not return for a second year.

Why Are College Students Dropping Out?

The American Institutes for Research report does not attempt to explain why students are dropping out in such high numbers. But here are some probable reasons . . .

  • Despite government subsidies, the cost of college remains staggeringly high for most American students and their families.
  • With fewer jobs awaiting graduates, more students are questioning the value of a college education.
  • In the current recession, more students are leaving college so that they can work and contribute money to their families.
  • Students who have experience taking college courses before they arrive on campus have a greater chance of doing well. That's why taking a few college courses online before starting college can help assure academic success.
  • Students who do not address weak areas before they arrive on campus can become discouraged by their own shortcomings - and drop out.

Those are just some reasons that come to mind first.

But something else comes to mind too. If people paid less for college, wouldn’t they be less likely to drop out?  The obvious answer to that question is yes. That’s one more reason why bringing college costs back into the realm of sanity would benefit not only students, but our society as a whole.

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