What could be worse than owing tens of thousands of dollars in college student loans? College dropout debt. That means owing tens of thousands in loans, with no degree 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, the University of Nevada- Las Vegas, and multiple schools in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Indiana.

The College Dropout Dilemma

Among students at four-year colleges, two of every five do NOT complete their college degree. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, the six-year graduation rate is only 62% for all students seeking bachelor’s degrees. This six-year graduation figure increases to 71% at private schools and is slightly more at highly selective schools. College Dropout Statistics

Almost 40% of students who take out loans don’t graduate and 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.

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 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 15.9 million undergraduate students enrolled in 2020, 24% 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. Apply to at least seven four-year colleges and compare financial aid packages. Make the schools compete for you!

Boost your ACT/SAT scores.

Prepare well and take the test at least four times to maximize your score and your scholarship dollars. Test Day is Pay Day. Work to increase your scores to earn scholarships and reduce your college costs. 

Work hard to research and prepare so you can avoid college dropout debt and instead become a college graduate with minimal debt.