Why Do Students Drop Out? Because They Must Work at Jobs Too

December 09, 2009

Many college students have bills that mom and dad don't pay. They have groceries to buy, kids to take care of, and cars to keep running. And they drop out because they have to work—more than any other reason, according to the results of a national survey of young adults that was released today.

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed who had quit college said that work was a factor in the decision, and more than half said it was a major factor. About 35 percent of those who dropped out said they had tried to balance work and study, and found it too stressful.

A report on the survey findings, "With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them," was produced by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan nonprofit research group, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 614 adults, ages 22 to 30, with at least some postsecondary education.

The survey's findings build on a growing body of research showing that part-time students—who account for close to 40 percent of undergraduates in the country—and those who have to work generally fare worse than do their full-time counterparts.

The new report also examines the impact that financial resources, family backgrounds, and information about the college-going process have on students' ability to persist in their studies and to graduate.