“College Dropout”


General College Dropout Statistics – 2020

The first-year college dropout rate is 30% in the U.S.

The issue of dropout is most prominent in the American higher education system. Approximately, one in three students who enrol for higher education is never able to earn a degree.

  • The overall college dropout rate in the U.S. is 40% for undergraduates, wherein the U.S. ranks 19th in graduation among 28 countries in OECD studies.
  • 89% of low-income first-generation students drop out, which is four times higher than second-generation students.
  • 43% of students who have enrolled for a 2-year public school dropped out before even getting a degree
  • In 2019, approximately 36% of the U.S. population aged 25 and above graduated from college or another higher education institution.
  • For community college, more than 50% students drop out within six years.
  • 40% of college dropouts have parents who did not complete their college.
  • 50% students at public universities drop out.

College Dropout Rates by Year

In the year 2000 about one in three American students dropped out of college.

Dropping out of college has some serious consequences. First and foremost is the higher unemployment rate. Students with student loans or grants will have to face immediate debt. It is, however, seen that students who have the highest student loans are less likely to drop out than those without loans or with smaller loans. Every year a large percentage of students opt to drop out of college. There are several reasons for dropping out of them such as difficulty in balancing school and job together and family-related issues among others.

In 2019, the percentage of students obtaining education beyond a high school diploma was less than 50%.

65.8% people over age 21 do not have a four-year college degree. About one in three young adults between the age 18–21 has a high school diploma only. One in five has less than a high school diploma.

Institutional Wise Dropout Rates

Students pursuing full-time courses are 55% less likely to drop out as compared to those who exclusively attend part-time school.

In any of the categories of educational institutions, two-year colleges have the highest dropout rate. Though it is a fact that a high number of students enrol for these colleges, they transfer to other colleges.

The average completion time for a 4-year degree course at a private college (with enrollment rate of 20%) is 4.2 years.

For a public college, the average completion time for a 4-year degree is 4.6 years, where the enrollment rate is 44%. While 70% of Americans study at a 4-year college but less than two-third are able to graduate with a degree. Among the dropouts, there is a fair percentage of students who have not been able to meet their admission standards for a four-year school. The type of courses also impacts the average dropout rates.

The average completion time for a two-year degree at a public college (with enrollment rate of 29%) is more than 2 years.

Only 5% students graduate on time. 69% of the college dropouts were enrolled in a public community college. 13% of college dropouts prefer going back to community college.

Harvard University Dropout Rate Statistics

Harvard College has the highest retention rate of 98% within 150% normal time.

Harvard College has a highly selective process while accepting new students. In 2018, the retention rate was 98%. The graduation rate at Harvard is relatively higher when compared to other similar colleges. Out of 1624 students enrolled last year, 847 males and 777 females graduated with a degree.

The graduation rate of American Indian or Alaska Native students is 100%.

The graduation rate of Asians in Harvard College is 97.73%, Non-Hispanics 99.04%, Hispanics 98.68%, and Whites is 97.60%. The graduation rate of single or double ethnicity students is 96.19% and those of unknown students is 100%.

College Dropout Rate: Demographics

Percentage of College Dropout by Age at Enrollment: 2-Year & 4-Year Institutions

% of college dropouts

Age4-year Institution2-year Institution
Age 19 or Younger1538.5
Age 20-2346.951.4
Age 24-2952.552.4
Age 30 or Older42.651.7

Asian students exhibit the least tendency to drop out.

Only 10% students dropped out at a 4-year institution and 35% dropped out at two-year college.

36% of American Indian/Alaska native students drop out just after two years at 4-year colleges.

Amongst these students, 23% of the first time full-time students graduated within four years, and moreover the percentage of these students who attained at least a 2 or 4-year degree declined from 30% to 27% between 2000 and 2017.

45.9% of Black students complete their graduation at four-year public colleges within 6 years.

Amongst these students, approximately 66% are women and 33% are men. College dropout rates are based on race as well. Around 38% of White drop out of college, while 62% of African Americans and 54.8% of Hispanics drop out within 6 years of enrollment.

Percentage of College Dropout by Ethnicity: 2-Year & 4-Year Institutions

% of college dropouts

Ethnicity4-year Institution2-year Institution
American Indian/Alaska Native36.252.9
Two or More Races22.843

College Graduation Rate Vs Dropout Rate in US@.

The average college graduation rate is 59%.

There is a great variation in college graduation as compared to dropout rates. But a higher graduation rate is very important as no student wants to lose money. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average college graduation rate is 59%. Most of the colleges are truly committed toward their students’ graduation on time.

The on-time graduation rate is 36% at selected universities.

The on-time graduation rate is 36% at selective universities, while it is 17% lower at public or non-flagship universities.

5% students graduate on time at a 2-year college.

Though students pursuing 1- to 2-year certificate program have a graduation rate of 15.9%, only 5% graduate on-time at a 2-year college.  


Community College Dropout Rates

Only 13% of students graduate in two years at community colleges.

Community colleges are an affordable option for many who want to explore college life. These are the primary institutions providing technical and career-oriented education in the U.S. But the dropout rate is high in community colleges. Providing the students with comprehensive support, such as counseling, tutoring, and financial assistance, could improve graduation rates. According to a recent study, community college students earn 30% more than those with only a high school degree.

More than 85% of students take more than 2 years to graduate, approximately 22% graduate within three years and 28% within four years.

The data reveals that of the total number of students enrolled in these colleges, less than 30% earn a degree even after four years.

More than 40% of students attending community colleges enroll in remedial class.

Almost all community colleges offer and conduct placement tests to students to evaluate how prepared they are for credit-bearing classes. Less than 20% of those enrolled in at least one remedial class get a degree within five years.

College Freshman Dropout Rate

Approximately 30% of college freshmen in the U.S. drop out before their sophomore year.

In the U.S., the total dropout rate for undergraduate college students is 40%.

The Cost of Being a College Dropout

. In 2019, student loan debt amounted to US$1.5 trillion, with over 2 million borrowers defaulting on their loans in the last six years.

Dropping out of college leads to immediate debt, if you have taken student loans or grants. College dropouts are four times more likely to default on their student loans as compared to graduates. Approximately, US$120 billion is spent per year on student grants and loans.

The unemployment rate is high in college dropouts.

The biggest cost of being a college dropout is high probability of unemployment. There are socio-economic consequences also involved. College dropouts or those with no education tend to place a burden on the government and social services and find it difficult to survive in the labour market. It also leads to low self-esteem and low confidence issues.

Who Drops Out of the College and From Where?

  • Full-time students are 55% less likely to drop out of college than students who go to school exclusively part-time.
  • Those who are unable to balance school, jobs, and family. Students who have high student loans also drop out more as compared to those who have less or no student loans.

Most Common Reasons for the Dropping Out of the College

Top Reasons for Dropping out of College

Financial pressure38
Poor social fit13
Family support9
Distance from home4
Mental/emothional issues3
Health problem5
Academic disqualification28

31% students have cited money as their reason for dropping out of coll 


The most profound reason students drop out is money and not high tuition rates. Students are not able to bring a balance between their work and studies.

Published by Christopher cannon


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s