What College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers: $9 Billion a Year

Empty classroomEveryone knows how expensive it is to get a college education, but what about the cost of dropping out of college? A new report found that taxpayers foot a steep bill for college dropouts: more than $9 billion annually.

Finishing the First Lap: The Cost of First-Year Student Attrition in America's Four-Year Colleges and Universities, conducted by the nonprofit American Institutes for Research (AIR), set out to tally the costs associated with freshman students who don't return to the college where they initially enrolled.

Between 2003 and 2008, states appropriated almost $6.2 billion to colleges and universities to help educate students who didn't return for a second year. In addition, the states doled out $1.4 billion and the federal government spent more than $1.5 billion in grants to students who left school before their sophomore year, according to the analysis. California, New York and Texas led the nation in government spending on students who dropped out of college.

More Graduates Needed

Overall, more than 20% of full-time students who enroll in a four-year college won't be in school the following year, and 40% of students attending community colleges won't return for a second year, according to AIR.

To address this problem, AIR and Matrix Knowledge Group have launched a new website, Collegemeasures.org, which allows consumers to evaluate the performance of the nation's four-year colleges.

President Obama has called for reducing high school and college dropout rates, and he has said that the future of America's prosperity relies on a better-educated workforce. At the first White House Summit on Community Colleges, held Oct. 6, the president called for federal funding for two-year community colleges as a way to boost the economy and get Americans back to work.

Community colleges will have to increase the number of degrees they confer by 5 million over the next 10 years, Obama said, to achieve his goal of retaking the world lead in the percentage of adults with a college degree by 2020. The U.S. now ranks 12th in the percentage of workers between the ages of 25 and 34 with associate's degrees, according to a July 2010 report by the College Board.

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Robert & Lisa

Why should students waste time and we money sending everyone to college where the mostly communist leaning professors try to endoctrinate our kids? Oh yeah, that's what it takes for Obama and thugs to get their base.

October 20 2010 at 4:06 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

On average, college grads make more money, but I know of many including myself that do just fine without a college degree There are many professions that pay really well that you don't need a college degree for. For many it is a question of wasting time in college or spending that time learning a trade that will help you and your family for the rest of your life.

October 20 2010 at 4:01 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Having taught for the past 45 years, I find that there is a major problem on all levels of our education system.Back in the 1940's,students knew that if they didn't do their homework,pay attention in class,pass exams,and attend classes on a regular basis,they very well could be held back and not move on to the next level;instead they had to repeat the level they failed.The pressure from parents and peers made students study and pass. Today that is a thing of the past.Except in colleges where students must repeat classes they fail,our schools just pass on almost every student.Yes, it might cost society extra dollars,but it would motivate students to try harder to pass their classes and therefore learn. Also,it would motivate teachers to teach and know that the students are trying to learn.Today is a joke as we pass on and graduate students who cannot read on 6th grade level and who have few basic math skills. Forget Algebra and Geometry.Many graduating seniors cannot spell these words.I now continue to teach in a Community College and am disheartened to see how unprepared entering Freshmen are.Thier attitudes and skills are poor and they must take prep classes to make up for what they neglected to learn. I hear them say"but I took this in High School." But did they learn the material? No,they didn't. When they fail they ask "WHY" I usually say"look at the tests I've returned to you." There is usually no response.They know why but cannot believe that in college we do fail students who do not perform up to standards.Some do return to school for the next semester and have learned the lesson ,"no work no pay." These young people change their attitude toward their studies and become real students. However, many do drop out and find that there is no jobs for them.So,changes in our educational system must take place or we are destined to become a second class nation. We are already on our way.Our government,our teachers and our parents must seek change in our system.Also,our children must accept the responsibility of learning.That'their job !

October 19 2010 at 11:17 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to asr3krav's comment

I agree but it seems that too much blame is placed on teachers. My sister is a very dedicated teacher,she spends hours before and after school preparing and grading papers, she spends her own money and is labeled as one of the strictest teachers in the school. I am surprised at how some parents expect their kids to be coddled. Parents are making excuses for their kids not doing homework and not coming to school prepared. Parents are becoming spineless and not are not teaching their kids responsibilities.

October 20 2010 at 4:00 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

So see........even if you can't afford to send your own kids to college, you have to pay for others............something wrong about that, don't you think?

October 19 2010 at 8:43 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Let's face it. Higher education is big business, and many of these colleges are making big bucks. Not everyone benefits from a college degree, especially if it is a degree in which you can not find a job in. Plus many college grads end up burdened with student loan debts that will take years to pay off. Students are told that they must get a college degree to be successful, and are ending up feeling mislead.

October 19 2010 at 5:26 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

The artiicle seems to state that BETWEEN 2003 and 2008 (6.2+1.4+1.5 =9.1 billion) was spent. That is different that "over 9 billion annually" as the headline states. Is there an agenda here or lack of understanding by the Michelle Turk the author. I know the numbers are big but does she have to black out? How reliable is the remainder of her article?

October 19 2010 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Did you forget to add the value that college dropouts like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg create for the economy when doing your calculation?

October 19 2010 at 4:00 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Perhaps if we tried the European/English system whereby students get college paid for solely based on ability (passing a qualifying university entrance exam) and NOT on NEED then we might have the right kids going to college and not dropping out. In this country you get college paid for based on financial need and not on ability and thus there is a complete mismatch! Its insane if you really think about it. Not everyone belongs in college and many do better finding out where their true talents lie and pursuing those (i.e. Bill Gates). We should be sending and funding college for kids who qualify academically and not basing it on how much their parents do or don't have. Also did you know that if you are 19 and want to go to college but your parents are solid middle class you probably can't get aide - UNLESS you marry someone - then the government won't look to your parents and you can get aide based only on your income - so another great government incentive - encouraging kids to marry at 18 and 19 years of age!

October 19 2010 at 3:40 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, Michele. This article is just another informercial. First, the phase "...who do not return to the college where they initially enrolled" is where the truth lies. As Obama stated, many of the students can no longer afford the 4-year educational path of colleges and universities. That is why the President encouraged the two year Techical College degree, usually not only cheaper for the long haul but also per year costs for each student. And it is known such tech colleges have increasing enrollment each year. Not return to the college of origin....you betcha! Secondly, the article takes on 9 billion dollars, while Congress is wrestling with 13 billion which would amount to 250 dollars for each Social Security recipient. Come on, 9 billion is really pocket change when distributed over the population of college students. In most cases it does not even buy one of those very expensive textbooks required of classes in a university.

October 19 2010 at 1:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bohemianacres's comment
good day

Great post bohemianacres, you tell the truth. I just read almost this same article about a week or two ago. Why do they keep rewriting the same thing? Is this some election time mumbo jumbo?

October 19 2010 at 2:24 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Want to reduce dropout rates? Make the students who get federal aid be held accountable for their performance and whether or not they drop out. I didn't get a dime of federal aid. In fact, I watched as all of my federal aid friends flounder for years in community college or drop out of the 4 year colleges. Meanwhile, I worked 2 (sometimes 3) jobs the entire time and STILL graduated on time. I know I'd come out with no college degree AND a mountain of debt if I didn't finish. Now THAT'S good incentive.

October 19 2010 at 1:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Amanda's comment
good day

Believe it or not federal grants do have a grade point average that you must keep, and it you drop out early in a semester you do owe the college for that semester. I didn't get grants either, but fellow students that I know that did get grants had rules to follow to get their semesters paid and to ever qualify for a grant again.

October 19 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply