Ever been told to finish what you started? That’s not bad advice. Students are being taught the value of a good education, and the counsel is working. College entrance rates have been going up for years. Classrooms are filling up, and dormitories are busting at the seams. Whether or not students are graduating is a different story.
According to a study conducted by ACT, a not-for-profit organization providing research services, only 74.5% of first-year students attending public four-year colleges return the following year. Those attending private four-year colleges fared a bit better, but barely. Graduation rates at private colleges were only .7% better than those at public ones, down from 5.8% in 1988. Sending a student to a more expensive private college is unlikely to solve the problem.
And arguing that these students are simply transferring doesn’t cut it either. According to an article released by the Associated Press, only 54% of students who entered a four-year university in 1997 had a degree six years later. Unless you’re Van Wilder, you should have something to show after six years.
Despite a spike in the number of students who attend college and obtain degrees, a high dropout percentage continues to be a problem. As a matter of fact, the rate is the same as it was in 1988. So many more ambitious students are vying for each college spot, but about one in four still quits after the first year. What’s the problem?
According to the ACT survey, the top two factors contributing to student failure were lack of motivation and inadequate financial resources. These two problems can be solved, but students need to take matters into their own hands.
Lack of student motivation was ranked as the biggest determinant of college failure—even more than a student’s academic fit for a particular school. This means that a student who can get their act together need not be discouraged by campus nerds. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Students should also keep their future in mind during stressful college times. Those who have yet to pinpoint a career may have a hard time identifying goals, but obtaining a degree is a great goal in itself. A degree gives students options. Those who change their minds about future plans may always return to school. In the mean time, a degree gives students something to fall back on.
As you surely know, more jobs than before require degrees. In fact, degrees are just the beginning. It is not uncommon for an employer to look your resume up and down and declare that your impressive background would make you a perfect fit for the company: no one would match your paper-filing skills.
The second biggest obstacle standing between a student and their degree was financial need. Students who spend a bundle on their education may suffer financially after dropping out. No education and no money is not a good combo. There are plenty of financial aid options, and students should take advantage of them.
The best money is, of course, free money. By filing a FASFA and searching Scholarships.com for grant and scholarship opportunities, students have the chance to find free college funding, no strings attached. Those who can save ahead of time should look into setting up a college savings account. Some good choices may be the 529 and the Coverdell as they allow students to accumulate money, tax-free. For more savings account options, visit the Scholarships.com Resources Section. Loans, as a last resort, can generally be obtained at lower rates when borrowed from the government. Take advantage of any aid offered. Don’t leave your purchase at the door: get the degree and the education you paid for.