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Parent alert: Millions start college but don’t finish

It's not easy to earn a college degree
It's not easy to earn a college degree
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Over the past two decades, more than 31 million students started college but failed to graduate according to Signature Report 7 from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in conjunction with the University of Indiana’s Project on Academic Success. IU announced the findings on August 12. They are chilling to current students, the college-bound, and their parents who may be left paying a college bill towards a diploma that isn’t awarded.

The Report found about one-third of the non-graduates enrolled for just a single term in a single institution. Multiple-term enrollees who completed at least two terms used non-traditional methods of college attendance like enrolling part time, taking a break, delaying studies well past high school graduation, or attending multiple institutions. Students with at least least two full academic years’ worth of college were “called potential completers [sic], recognizing that for most students this would be significant progress toward a two-year credential and half-way to the four-year baccalaureate,” according to the Report.

Key findings
The Report concentrated on the potential completers [sic] who were closest to earn their college degrees and compared them to the completers [sic] who accomplished this goal. The following were noted:

  • The typical potential completer [sic] is age 24-29 and has been out of the postsecondary education system for two to six years, as of Dec. 2013
  • There are about 600,000 women and 630,000 men in this category
  • Most attended only one (45.6 percent) or two institutions (36 percent)
  • For those who attended more than one institution, greater time elapsed between the first and last enrollment
  • About twice as many completers [sic] (59.7 percent) had no stop-outs up to their last enrollment, compared to potential completers [sic] (32.3 percent)
  • Potential completers [sic] had a higher proportion (17.3 percent) of students with three or more stop-outs, compared to completers [sic] (7.1 percent)
  • Older students enrolled in multiple institutions at greater rates than younger students in both categories

In sum, the longer and more frequent the stop outs and the more schools attended, the greater the likelihood for failing to earn a degree.

What to do
The college-bound and their parents should discuss the importance of earning a degree and completing studies within a specific time period. Also, the more semesters it takes, the greater the college costs. Choice of college should include researching the resources available to help students stay on track. Here are five things for families to talk about:

  1. Students must be committed and prepared to enroll full time and do their best continuously from admission to graduation at one college.
  2. If the student must transfer, make sure credits will be accepted at the new institution.
  3. Keep communication flowing during the college years so students know to reach out for help when needed and which resources are available from the family and the college including all forms of academic, financial, extracurricular, physical and mental health support and services.
  4. Students should speak with college advisors and mentors to form a complete academic plan of study including what courses/internships are necessary and when they should be taken. Review and revise continually.
  5. Students should consider supplementing fall/spring semesters with day, evening, online, and winter/summer classes at community or other colleges, if credits transfer, during college breaks to keep the learning momentum going.

For more information about the parent role in the college process, click the subscribe near the photo and follow @pocsmom.