Identifying the real reasons students drop out…

Researchers describe many reasons for leaving college as well as student characteristics of non-pers isters.

According to Tinto, academic reasons represent only 20-30% of all college leavers nationally. The remaining 70-80% of students who are not retained leave for the following reasons: (1993)

  • Adjustment. Students who are inadequately prepared for the magnitude of academic and social change required of them become overwhelmed and drop out. This is particularly common among minority and first-generation students
  • Goals. It is not uncommon for students to change goals or majors while in college. Some students, however, have extreme difficulty determining what they want to pursue academically. If the indecision continues over a long period of time, students are likely to withdraw from college
  • Commitment. Students have experiences with the college both before (visits, application process, etc.) and after their entry. Experiences with the college after entry are more important to persistence and departure than what has gone on before entry.
  • Finances. Many students, especially those from working class and disadvantaged backgrounds, withdraw because they are unable to bear the direct and indirect costs of college.
  • Integration and community membership. When students are unable to become integrated into the college community, they are not likely to persist. As discussed above, this reason often applies to minorities and first-generation students who find the culture of the institution very different from their native cultures.
  • Incongruence. A mismatch between student interests and needs and the institutional mission or course and program offerings can result in a student leaving.
  • Isolation. When students don’t interact with other members of the institution, particularly faculty, they will feel alone in the learning process and are more likely to drop out.

Tinto (1987) also stressed that external social systems may interact with the above reasons and further undermine a student’s ability to persist in college. These external systems may involve friends who didn’t go to college, parents who are anxious about their child changing in college, conflicts with work, family demands, and so on.

The National Center for Education Statistics (2003), Beal and Noel (1980), and other researchers described characteristics of community college students who are at risk of not earning a degree for one or more of the above reasons. These characteristics include:

  • Delayed post secondary enrolment
  • Part-time enrolment
  • Full-time or significant employment
  • Low commitment (e.g., only in college becauseparents want them to be or being in college is better than working) and no realintention to persist.ollegen5b
  • Low ability or underprepared
  • First-generation college student
  • High school dropout or GED recipient
  • Friends attend other schools
  • Family problems
  • Lack of encouragement from family and/or peers
  • Having dependents other than spouse
  • Single-parent status
  • Emotional and/or personal problems including substance abuse
  • Lack of institutional/student fit and involvement
  • Absence of significant interaction with facultyand other members of the college community
  • Transportation issues
  • Financial independence and/or financial issues