College Dropouts

September 26, 1962

Report Outline
Dropout Problem in Higher Education
Admissions Policies and Dropout Rates
Opposition to Over-Rigid Standards

Dropout Problem in Higher Education

High Rates of Student Attrition in Colleges

The college class of 1966, now starting its freshman year, is probably the brightest in a long time, thanks to increasingly selective admissions policies. Thus an uncommonly low percentage of the members of the class may be expected to flunk out. This will be helpful to the many institutions of higher learning that have been plagued by high rates of student attrition. Loss of students is apt to be costly and administratively disrupting. If a college has an unusually high rate of student withdrawal, it may reflect unfavorably on the operations of its admissions office and on the efficacy of its educational program.

On the other hand, academic failure is not the reason, in the majority of cases, for withdrawal from college before graduation. Many students in good standing quit, whether or not for adequate reasons, and college authorities are as concerned about them as about the dropouts who fail in their studies. In an era when the opportunity to work for a degree, especially at one of the better known institutions, is much sought after, the colleges prefer to enroll full-time freshmen who have good prospects of staying on until they graduate. At the same time, many educators question whether colleges ought to reject a large number of youths of modest ability who would gain some benefit from advanced education even if they did not complete a four-year course.

Slightly less than one-half of the country's high school graduates—55 per cent of the boys and 36 per cent of the girls—enter college for full-time study. Slightly more than one-half of those who matriculate—56.5 per cent of the men students and 51 per cent of the women—continue through the four years and receive a baccalaureate degree. U.S. Office of Education studies indicate that the proportion who eventually graduate could be given as almost 60 per cent if intermittent and part-time students who persist in their studies year after year were taken into account.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
School Dropouts
Apr. 21, 1989  Dropouts: An F for Education
Sep. 26, 1962  College Dropouts
May 16, 1962  School Dropouts
Undergraduate and Graduate Education