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Almost half of stopped-out community college students cite work as major reason for leaving

Almost half of stopped-out community college students cite work as major reason for leaving

Higher Ed Dive

Natalie Schwartz
February 12, 2024
Dive Brief: 
  • Nearly half of students who left community college without earning a degree or credential cited work as a major reason why they’re no longer enrolled, according to recent survey data from New America, a left-leaning think tank.
  • Almost a third, 31%, said they could no longer afford their programs, while 27% said they had lost self-motivation or ambition. Other top reasons included child care responsibilities, the impact of inflation and personal health issues.
  • Stopped-out community college students faced greater economic hardships in 2023 than they did the prior year, the survey suggests. Sixty percent said they had missed paying important bills, up from 49% in 2022. And 58% said they applied for public benefits in 2023, compared to 49% the year before.
Dive Insight: 
As the pool of traditional-aged college students shrinks, institutions have increasingly focused on bringing back those who left higher education without finishing their credentials. This population increased to some 40.4 million students in 2021, up from 39 million the prior year, according to a report last April from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
However, increased hardships faced by stopped-out community college students could translate to lower shares of these learners reenrolling. Just 36% of stop-outs said they were likely to reenroll in a two-year college, down from 42% who said the same in 2022, according to New America’s survey.
Moreover, many of those who intend to reenroll didn’t plan to do so anytime soon. Almost one-third of respondents, 31%, said they expected to attend college again sometime after 2024. A little over a quarter, 26%, aimed to reenroll for the fall 2024 term.
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