Why More Students Are Dropping Out of College

College students aren't returning to school this semester, opting to join the booming workforce or become entrepreneurs instead.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Students aren’t just opting for alternatives to college, they’re also dropping out of higher education at a greater rate. Rising college costs are leading this growing trend among college-aged students. Likewise, shifts in the workforce are adding to this finding. But now, a new survey shows just how impactful this trend may be in America. 

A new report published by Intelligent on September 12th suggested that nearly a third of all college students may be dropping out this semester. The ever-increasing costs of tuition are a major factor, but so is the allure of non-degree job openings in the workforce that pay just as much as others that require college degrees. Many young adults even expressed a desire to become entrepreneurs as their reason for not returning to school.

It’s an employee’s market right now, as businesses all across the nation struggle to find help. Because of this, many feel forced to increase their wages as competition runs fierce. In this new survey, 31% of college students that don’t plan on returning this fall said that the booming job market was what led to their big decision. 

Making the job market even more enticing to these select college students is a shift in applicant requirements for many American jobs. In a growing trend, more companies are eliminating the need for a college education from their requirements for jobs. It’s part of a growing shift away from college degrees and focusing on skills and experience, as certain industries struggle to find workers. 

Inflation and the rising cost of living is another major factor forcing college students away. 29% of respondents said they weren’t returning this year because they couldn’t afford to. The average price of college tuition has increased so greatly, that it beats out inflation by a large margin. Making the matter even worse, the price of rent and groceries has skyrocketed over the last year, meaning that students often have to choose between homelessness or school.

Another peculiar finding in this new survey was that 28% of college students said they were quitting school to become entrepreneurs. This may be driven by America’s tendency to push “shop local” efforts and steer away from mega-corporations. The pandemic exacerbated this newfound desire for Americans to become their own boss, as millions of workers had to get creative during this period of time. 

But possibly one of the biggest questions on this survey came at the end, asking college students whether or not they planned on ever returning to college. Only 36% said they were “very likely” to return to school one day, while 31% said that they most likely won’t return. No matter how this play’s out, it will certainly have an impact on U.S. colleges’ future, if it isn’t already.

college students

Colleges and universities are already feeling the effects of this shift in trends. But whether or not these institutes for higher education will look at these findings and in turn significantly decrease expenses to attract more college students is uncertain. What is known, however, is that fewer adults are opting for a college degree, and it’s having a major impact on the economy, both for good and bad.