What could be worse than owing tens of thousands of dollars in college student loans?
Answer: owing tens of thousands in loans, without a diploma to show for your time and money.
Pulitzer Prize-winner David Leonhardt, Sahil Chinoy, and the Urban Institute researched college graduation rates. In May 2019, they published an interactive infographic of their distressing findings. Colleges with the highest dropout rates include the University of Nebraska-Omaha, University of Nevada- Las Vegas, and multiple schools in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Indiana.
How big a problem is college completion?
Among students at four-year colleges, two of every five do NOT complete their college degree.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the six-year graduation rate is only 60% for all students seeking bachelor’s degrees. This six-year graduation figure increases slightly at private schools and rises to 88% at highly selective schools. When accounting for part-time and transfer students, using the same data, Washington D.C. think tank Third Way believes the six-year completion rate is even worse, dropping to 45%.
Students who take out loans but don’t graduate are three times more likely to default, earn less lifetime income, and are more likely to be unemployed– than borrowers who do graduate—according to a 2016 federal report.
How can you avoid becoming a degree-less debtor?
- Research graduation rates. For colleges that interest you, check the graduation rates. High graduation rates indicate solid student support—not just scholarships and financial aid, but sufficient course offerings, academic advising, counseling, and engagement, to improve your chances of success. The U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard helps you compare schools on multiple factors including graduation rates.
- Consider more selective schools. Many students assume they won’t be admitted or can’t afford more selective colleges. According to a recent Georgetown University analysis, students with above-average test scores have higher success rates at schools with selective admissions than they do at colleges with open admissions.
- Maximize high school academics. Take all the courses you can to fulfill college requirements. Don’t enter college with deficiencies in math or world language courses that you could have completed in high school. Use Advanced Placement, credit by examination, dual enrollment, etc. to get a jump start on college coursework. Graduating on-time, in four years instead of six, saves not only college costs, but reduces accrued loan interest and gets you earning income faster
- Be prepared. Of 18 million two- and four-year college students enrolled in 2008, nearly one-third dropped out before their second year. College requires adjustments—being responsible for your own meals, laundry, time management, and all your choices. Practice the life skills you’ll need before arriving on campus.
- Find YOUR best-fit college at the lowest cost. Find the college that is the best match for you. You’ll be happier, more engaged, and more successful at college if you choose what’s right for you.
- Boost your ACT/SAT scores to earn scholarships and reduce your college costs. Prepare well and take the test at least four times to maximize your score and your scholarship dollars. Test Day is Pay Day
Become a savvy college shopper. Apply to at least seven four-year colleges and compare financial aid packages. Make the schools compete for you!