Updated December 5, 2020

23 College Dropout Statistics That Will Surprise You

Read more about Student

One-third of college students drop out entirely. More than half of the students enrolled in college take more than 6 years to graduate.

The statistics are staggering.

Keep reading to learn more shocking statistics about college, including who stays and who doesn't.

College Dropouts at Universities and Community Colleges

  • How many students drop out?
    57% of students enrolled in college are not done after six years. Of that 57%, 33% of them drop out entirely. The remaining 24% stay enrolled in school, either full- or part-time.

  • What percentage of college students drop out after the first year?
    28% of students drop out before they even become a sophomore. Of the 72% who stay in college, 60% stayed at the same college where they started. The remaining 12% transferred to another college for their sophomore year.

  • What is the dropout rate for community colleges?
    43% of students enrolled at a 2-year public school dropped out before obtaining a degree. This is often attributed to the majority of students stuck in remedial classes at the college level. This lengthens the time to graduation, decreasing the likelihood of finishing.

  • What is the dropout rate at Harvard?
    Harvard has the highest graduation rate - a soaring 98%. This is likely due to their very selective process when accepting new students.

College Dropouts by Race

  • What percentage of Caucasians drop out of college?
    Just about 38% of Caucasians drop out of college.

  • What percentage of Asians drop out of college?
    1.2% fewer Asians drop out of college than Caucasians. 63.2% of Asians complete their intended degree.

  • What percentage of African Americans drop out of college?
    62% of African Americans do not complete their intended degree within 6 years of enrollment.

  • What percentage of Hispanics drop out of college?
    54.8% of Hispanics enrolled in college, but do not complete their degree within 6 years.

Reasons for Dropping Out

  • What is the top reason students drop out of college?
    According to a study conducted by Public Agenda, the number one reason for leaving college is money. It's not high tuition bills, though.

    Many students work while going to school. They find it too difficult to balance both responsibilities. In fact, only 31% of those citing money as their reason for dropping out did so because of high tuition rates. 54% said they dropped out because they couldn't balance work and school.

  • How many students taking remedial college courses drop out?
    Taking remedial college courses only prolongs graduation. In other words, it increases tuition bills. Less than one-fourth of students required to take remedial college courses complete their program and earn a degree.

  • How does a college student's social life affect the dropout rate?
    Overdoing it in college has its consequences. Excessive drinking and late nights can make it hard to keep up with studies. This affects the national dropout rate in three ways:

    • Parents stop funding their child's college education
    • Schools expel the student for academic failure.
    • Students pull themselves out of school after getting too far behind.

  • How much does homesickness affect the college dropout rate?
    Being away from home and overwhelmed with classes and responsibilities can cause a student to drop out. The grief of missing home can get in the way of a student's studies. As grades drop, students face consequences similar to those above.

Graduation Rates

  • What percent of students at public colleges graduate in 4 years?
    At selective universities, the on-time graduation rate is 36%. At public or non-flagship universities, it is 17% lower, with just 19% of students graduating on time.

  • What percent of students get an Associate's Degree in 2 years?
    Only 5% of students at a 2-year college graduate on time. Although students pursuing a 1- to 2-year certificate program have slightly higher graduation rates at 15.9%.

  • What does the average college's graduation rate mean?
    Students often focus on the college's acceptance rate, which makes sense. Who wants to face rejection, right? However, more important is the college's graduation rate. In other words, what percentage of students graduate from the institution? The higher the percentage the better if you want to get your money's worth.

    Colleges can vary drastically. For example, Northwestern's 4-year graduation rate is 86%, whereas DePaul's 4-year graduation rate is 40% lower at just 46%.

College Retention Rates

  • What is the average retention rate after freshman year?
    The average retention rates across all colleges in the U.S. is 81%. The highest rates were at the most selective colleges. They enjoy a 96% retention rate, whereas the least selective schools have a 62% retention rate.

  • How many undergrads transfer colleges?
    33% of all college students transfer at least one time during their college career. The most common time for the transfer was during the 2nd year of college. More than one-fourth of the transfers were to another state.

High School Dropouts

  • What percentage of students drop out of high school?
    High school dropout rates have always been a hot topic. Over the past five years, it has decreased from 21% down to 17%. This gives students a better chance at a college education, better job, and better home.

  • What is the national high school graduation rate?
    The latest studies show the national high school graduation rate is 83%. The increase in graduation rates has been across the board, covering all races.


  • What are the consequences of dropping out of college?
    Dropping out of college could mean a higher likelihood of unemployment. You may face other consequences too, though. If you took out student loans or grants, you may have more immediate debt than you realize. You may lose your grace period. The school you attend may also require you to pay them directly for any tuition you would have owed. Pay close attention to a school's refund policies if dropping out is on your radar.

    Aside from financial consequences, many dropouts face self-esteem issues. Dropouts often feel as if they are less adequate or less capable to achieve their dreams.

  • Do you have to repay the Pell Grant if you drop out?
    If you are a Pell Grant recipient, give careful thought before dropping out. If you drop out before completing 60% of the semester, you may owe unearned aid. Money that was paid on your behalf that you didn't earn must be repaid. Your school will let you know how much you owe and when you must repay it. If you don't pay it on time, you could face consequences from the Department of Education.

  • How likely are college dropouts to default on student loans?
    According to Mark Kantrowitz, college dropouts are 4 times more likely to default on their student loans than those who graduated. If you're in the same situation, make sure to check out our guide on how to eliminate student loan debt.

  • How likely are college dropouts to be unemployed compared to graduates?
    The unemployment rates for college graduates are consistently 2% or more lower than those with just a high school diploma. More employers today require at least a bachelor's degree for many positions.

Bottom Line

Give careful thought before accepting a college's invitation. Look at their retention and graduation rates. Consider your financial capabilities. Get the help you need both mentally and financially. The more support you have, the better your chances of not becoming a statistic.

Sources and References:

Write to Kim P at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

Student Credit Cards

Stay informed with free money-saving tips, deals, and reviews from CreditDonkey.

How to Choose a Student Credit Card

As a college student, you want to build credit and make smart healthy financial decisions. With so many credit card offers for college students available, how do you pick the best offer for you?

About CreditDonkey
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

†Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which CreditDonkey receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CreditDonkey does not include all companies or all offers that may be available in the marketplace.

*See the card issuer's online application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button you can review the terms and conditions on the card issuer's website.

CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.

About Us | Reviews | Deals | Tips | Privacy | Do Not Sell My Info | Terms | Contact Us
(888) 483-4925 | 680 East Colorado Blvd, 2nd Floor | Pasadena, CA 91101
© 2024 CreditDonkey Inc. All Rights Reserved.