Why Some Students Quit College and just how They are able to Finish


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Growing up in Cookeville, Tennessee, a school town about 80 miles east of Nashville, Hayley Furcean was determined to be the first college graduate in her family.

“I’ve always been the smart kid,” she says.

After graduating from high school in 2008, she earned a complete academic scholarship for her first year at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville and began studying early childhood education. But things took a turn the summer after freshman year, when her grandmother died.

Furcean began questioning whether teaching preschool was what she desired to use her life. She moved out of her parents’ home, which meant picking up more shifts at the office to pay for rent and bills. She suffered from depression and often skipped class.

“My grades went from A’s to F’s,” Furcean says. “It really was tough in those days to prioritize school after i felt like everything else was falling apart.”

After sophomore year, she left school.

Furcean’s story is personal, but her situation is common. In 2016, 36 million people ages 25 and over had earned some college credit but no degree, based on the U.S. Census Bureau. Students’ reasons for stopping short of a qualification are wide-ranging: poor grades, strained finances, negative college experiences, programs that weren’t the right fit.

Without a diploma, it may be impossible to be eligible for a many jobs. By 2020, 65% of U.S. jobs will need some type of higher education, according to estimates by the Georgetown University Focus on Education and also the Workforce. It is also challenging for people with no diploma to earn enough to settle student debt. College dropouts who started school in 2003-04 were more likely to have defaulted on their own school loans by 2015 than students who had completed an associate or bachelor’s degree, based on National Center for Education Statistics data.

To help students, colleges must do more to identify those in danger of quitting and enable them to avoid doing this, says Hadass Sheffer, president from the Graduate! Network, a company trying to boost the number of adults who complete college. For instance, institutions could unintrusively track students’ attendance and whether they turn in assignments, and intervene with those who show signs of trouble, Sheffer says.

“The road to quitting is the road to least resistance,” Sheffer says. “What if you had to jump through hoops to stop?”

A second chance

In January, Furcean returned to Tennessee Tech University for her second go at a bachelor’s degree. She’s taking classes at night an internet-based in workplace leadership and business management, and works full time like a preschool teacher.

Her schedule is demanding, but Furcean, now 27, has extra support. She works together with a specialist advisor at her local branch of Tennessee Reconnect, an organization that provides free services for adults returning to college. These resources are very important because many returning students have a problem with learning how to re-enroll in college and pay it off, Sheffer says.

Programs like Tennessee Reconnect can be found in more than 20 communities across 13 states – students will find one near them through The Graduate! Network’s website. Those who do not have use of free help can navigate the procedure independently by using these tips:

  • Contact your original school’s admissions, advising or registrar’s office to discover what you ought to do to finish your degree.
  • Consider other schools, specifically if you had a bad experience at the previous institution. Should you prefer a more flexible class schedule, explore options including online or hybrid programs, which mix on the internet and in-person classes.
  • Look for a college that offers a previous learning assessment program if you plan to review in a field you’ve already worked in, says Lexi Anderson, a policy analyst at Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based organization centered on state-level education policy. You may be able to earn college credit for experience and skills you have.
  • Apply for grants and federal student education loans, which include flexible repayment options, by submitting the disposable Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA. Contrary to what some believe, adult students qualify for educational funding, including Pell Grants. Additionally, look for scholarships designated for adult learners.