News November 17, 2023

Dropouts Cost Colleges $3.8 Billion a Year – Don’t Be One of Them!

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College Dropouts

The average retention rate in American higher education institutions is 71% – and that’s not a lot. US colleges lose a staggering $3.8 Billion annually because students drop out. At least 40% of undergraduate students drop out of college without getting their degree.

But why do institutions fail to retain such a massive chunk of their students?

If you want to know more about student retention and how technology impacts student retention, keep reading!

What is Student Retention?

Student retention measures how well colleges are doing. It compares how many students enrol at a particular institution versus how many students graduate. So, a student retention rate of 71% means that 29% of students who registered for a degree gave up before graduation, mainly right after their freshman year. But what’s more alarming is that these statistics don’t even consider the 30% or so students who don’t apply for college in the first place. This is a problem because a considerable pay gap exists for people with and without a degree. This means these people are missing out on many opportunities – and we need to find a way to fix that.

Why Are Students Dropping Out of College?

Why Are Students Dropping Out of College

Improving student retention requires first identifying problem areas. We need to really figure out why students are dropping out of college in the first place. Here’s what we’ve gathered:

Financial Burden

Let’s face it – college tuition isn’t cheap. The Forbes Advisor estimates the average student loan debt in the United States to be $28,950 per borrower. The total federal and private loans would then be around $1.75 trillion. What’s more, education costs have only increased over the past 30 years. Economically disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out of college. However, the rising tuition costs have also increased the demand for student loans and financial aid grants. Plus, most economically disadvantaged students are also probably working part-time trying to make ends meet – and that’s yet another reason for them to drop out. Ultimately, they don’t have the same amount of time to study, and competing with their peers is harder. So, increasing graduation rates would mean providing these students with financial aid, flexible timetables, additional learning support, and maybe even health insurance. Today, nearly half of all college students in the US are weighed down by their debts.

Strong Job Market and Rising Costs

Inflation is on the rise, which means living costs are continually increasing. Statistics show that at least 29% of college dropouts can’t continue their education due to inflation. Also, 31% of students attribute dropping out to finding a job to support themselves. What’s ironic about this is the inherent pay gap for college graduates and college dropouts. So, if a student drops out of college to get a job, they won’t be able to get a very good one. They’ve capped their income because they’ll always earn less than their fellows who graduated successfully. Nevertheless, rising costs and the job market are significant reasons students drop out of college, and institutions must do more to help. One of the ways could be with grant programs like EOP&S and CARE, which could make the learning process more flexible and adaptive and could be another way to support these students.

Feeling “Too Much Pressure”

College degrees, especially professional degrees like engineering, are inherently competitive. Students naturally feel pressure and anxiety when juggling courses and other responsibilities. There’s also the fact that many students are away from home. While most colleges do their best to make students feel at home, some students have never experienced staying away from home for extended periods. So, with all the pressure and homesickness, they drop out because they think getting a degree is not worth it. Then again, this might not be the sole reason for abandoning their studies but a contributing factor that finally pushes them to do it. Either way, colleges and universities must deal with this issue if they want to boost student retention and graduation rates. Of course, colleges are already trying to create homely environments on campus. Still, maybe they should adopt a more proactive approach with students involved in the decision-making process.

Lack of Support

Despite their good intentions, institutions often fail to retain students, and a significant reason is that these students feel unsupported. Learning can start to feel passive if students don’t have sufficient interaction with their instructors. This means that students want to be involved in the learning and curriculum development process. They also want to feel supported rather than lost in the enormous number of students and feel like nobody cares whether they pass or fail. Many institutions try to counter this by providing mental health and other such services to their students. However, there’s still a lot to do because students are dropping out due to lack of support – and that’s not good.

Uncertain Career or Degree Choice

Many students enrol in college without knowing what they want to do. So they might feel like it’s a lost cause and maybe getting registered was a mistake in the first place. Some students might not be satisfied with their choice of major or institution, but they start feeling “not made for college.” Simply put, they don’t know what to study or even why they’re studying. College is a default option for many students who just don’t know what else to do with their lives at that point, and this lack of motivation can be a significant barrier to a fulfilling college experience. Evidence indicates that at least ⅓rd of college students are uncertain about their degree and career choice, and if colleges fail to develop at least certainty to an extent, these students will likely drop out when it’s time to declare their major. Colleges can tackle this by ensuring the availability of student counsellors to help students explore their options and make informed decisions in the light of their interests and skills.

Apart from these reasons, students might drop out for other reasons as well, but it’s usually a mix of the issues mentioned. Regardless, institutions need to take the initiative to help students graduate and secure their futures, and looking into why students leave is only the first step.

Which Technologies Can Help Student Retention?

Which Technologies Can Help Student Retention

Institutions try to facilitate their students in every way possible, and technology can help supplement these efforts. Statistics show that 86% of educators believe AI and other technologies are vital to student learning. AI chatbots can respond much faster to student queries even though they might need to fact-check some information. AI summary tools can help students extract core concepts from elaborate chapters, significantly reducing their study time. Moreover, technology can help deliver personalized learning experiences to students using trained machine learning models. Also, feedback is instant and automated, reducing the burden for educators so they have more time to interact and connect with their students. Lastly, accessibility is a big deal for students with learning disabilities. Tools like AI and machine learning can help individualize and adapt the learning experience for students, which is a big step toward student retention.

SimpliTaught Can Help You Boost Graduation Rates at Your Institution

SimpliTaught provides an online learning platform for higher education that uses AI and machine learning to advance student learning. Students can rent and buy books apart from accessing additional study materials. Our machine learning model will observe how students interact with the content and then personalize it accordingly. Not only does this encourage student engagement, but it ultimately also translates to higher student retention and graduation rates.

Learn more about how we can help institutions support their students at Simplitaught.

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