Attrition rate: What is it and what contributes to it?

An attrition rate measures the number of students who leave a program before actually completing the program. Currently, of the approximate 2 million students that attend college each fall in the United States, only 54.8% of them graduate according to the NSCR. In the United States, we rank #1 for the amount of people starting college, yet Gates Notes states that we rank around #20 for completion rates. So, what actually contributes to this attrition rate?

In a Public Agenda Report for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which conducted a study of 614 people between the ages of 22-30, 71% of those who did not complete their college program cited needing to work to make money as a factor and 52% said the cost of tuition and fees was a major factor. Furthermore, 60% of students who left their program before graduating were not relying on their families for financial support. Conversely, 60% of students who completed their programs said they had financial support from their families.

Moreover, the cost of college has increased 400% over the last 25 years while the median household income has increased only about 150%.

In this same study, 97% of those studied who did not complete their program said they will encourage their children to go to college, despite their inability to complete their own programs. But, it is likely that the experience of the parents will carry on if something doesn’t change in the way we approach post-secondary education.

It is easy to understand that college is expensive. But, because of this, many people do no believe college is even possible.

So, what does this mean for the larger society?

Right now, a high attrition rate means fewer people with post-secondary degrees, which ultimately contributes to the skills gap.

Ah, yes, the good ol’ skills gap. We’ve talked about this before, but is it real? Should we truly be worried about it? After all, the unemployment rate is at 17-year low at 4.1% as of December 2017. That has to mean that jobs and skills are matching up, right?

While the unemployment rate is something that, yes, probably excites people, there are also some concerns that a lack of skilled people necessary for businesses to evolve will inhibit future economic growth. The keyword here is future. The skills gap is imminent, not necessarily a concern of our economy as it stands today.

In the years following the Great Recession (2008 to 2013), the composition of jobs changed greatly. Employed Americans without a high school diploma decreased by more than 1.6 million, employed Americans with a high school diploma fell by 2.8 million, and employed Americans with some college experience but without a bachelor’s degree fell by 227,000. Meanwhile, the number of employed Americans with a college degree increased by 4.3 million. Since 2013, 10.6 million new jobs have been created with 71% of these going to people with a college degree (NACE). Bottom line: more and more, employers are looking for educated and skilled employees.

This statistic holds true as we look to the future. By 2025, two-thirds of all jobs will require more than a secondary degree.

Taking all of this into consideration here is where we stand:

  • Those who do not have financial support from families are much more likely to drop out of college
  • College has increased in cost by 400% in the last 25 years. Family income has increased only by about 150%
  • The unemployment rate is at a record low but there are concerns for our economic growth
  • 71% of jobs created since 2013 have gone to those with a college degree

It is undeniable that a degree is extremely important, if not a requirement, to be successful in our future society. It is also undeniable that college is extremely difficult to fund for many people.

So where does that leave us? It is our strong belief at Kaleidoscope that scholarship and grant dollars, smartly and responsibly implemented, are necessary to the continued growth of our economy and our society. If you’re interested in helping more people go to college, we would love to help you launch and develop your scholarship program. Schedule a demo today!

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