Everything You Need to Know About the College Dropout Rate

Are you thinking about dropping out of college? Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to try something different? Whatever the case may be, you are certainly wondering about the college dropout rate and how it affects you and your chance of finishing college.

With that in mind, we wanted to give you a detailed report with all the vital statistics and numbers you need to know about college dropouts. The article is here to show you the reality of the situation in the US. It’s also here to try to convince you not to give up.

Before we get started, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting data we found.

Key College Dropouts Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • 49% of college students with ADHD who are not on medication drop out.
  • 40% of undergraduates drop out from college in the US.
  • 33% of dropout students at schools with a graduation rate under 40% return after one term.
  • One in three college students drop out due to the work-college imbalance.
  • Computing is the degree with the highest dropout rate — 10.7%.
  • 47% of adults living with schizophrenia drop out from college.
  • Only 11.6% of students who drop out end up transferring and getting their degrees elsewhere.
  • The state with the lowest dropout rate is Massachusetts — 56%.

The Most Important College Dropout Statistics

1. 36 million Americans hold some postsecondary education or training without completion.

(NSC Research Center)

Approximately two million people per year enter postsecondary education for the first time in the US. Nevertheless, many of them don’t complete it. A recent study reveals millions of Americans dropping out of college with only a couple of years of education.

They are known as the Some College, No Degree population because of this. In addition, ten percent of them are potential completers who completed at least two years of college. These people are more likely to re-enroll and finish college than other former students.

2. College dropout rate statistics for 2021 show that the cost of studying is one of the main reasons students give up on college.

(College Data)

For the 2020/21 academic year, the average price of tuition and fees at private colleges is $37,650. At public colleges, it’s $10,560 for in-state residents and $27,020 for out-of-state residents.

To show how expensive this is and how unable students are to pay for it, you only need to take a look at the fact that around 44.7 million Americans have $1.71 trillion in student debts. No wonder college dropout rates are higher than they should be.

3. 70% of California’s community college students fail to graduate or transfer.

(Community College Review)

A new study shows that more than two-thirds of community college students in California drop out of college. They either fail to obtain a degree or transfer to a four-year institution. The study also detects a disparity among dropout rates for students of different races.

For example, Latino students rank first by the number of people that drop out within six years — 78%.

African American students are right behind, with 74% of dropouts. In fact, college dropout rates by race reveal astonishing numbers for white (63%) and Asian Pacific students (65%).

4. 52.5% of students between 24 and 29 leave four-year institutions without a degree, making this age group most likely to drop out.

(Education Data)

The number of students who drop out of two-year institutions in the same age group is approximately the same as for four-year institutions — 52.4%. Conversely, the lowest dropout rate for both types of higher education is among those who are 19 or younger.

5. The ADHD college dropout rate for students who are not on medication is 49%.

(ADDitude Mag)

Research suggests that medication doesn’t substantially improve the academic outcomes of college students with ADHD. However, those who take medication have fewer symptoms of depression, possess better executive functioning skills, and receive educational accommodations in high school and academic support services in college.

Overall, college students with ADHD face an increased risk of academic difficulties. Numerous studies have implied that a high dropout rate is typical for students with an attention deficit in higher education.

6. 1,300 students dropped out of higher education institutions in Japan from April to December 2020.

(University World News)

Public and private tertiary institutions in Japan saw a high college dropout rate due to the COVID pandemic. The surveyed students who dropped out mentioned three top reasons for their decision. The struggle to pay tuition fees was one of them. Loneliness and lack of motivation while studying online from home were the other two.

The pandemic has taken its toll on both ongoing and new students. The survey also shows that applications for the country’s 107 major private universities’ exams normally taken in April are down by 12% compared to last year.

7. The college dropout rate in America for undergraduate students is 40%.

(Education Data)

A significant number of undergraduates leave college. What’s more, many of them don’t make it to their sophomore year. The most recent data available shows that 30% of college freshmen drop out during their first year.

8. 10% of four-year Asian students drop out.

(Education Data)

Out of all ethnic groups, Asian students are the least likely to drop out either from two-year or four-year colleges. However, much more Asian students leave two-year colleges (35%) than four-year institutions.

9. The national six-year college dropout rate has decreased by 0.3%.

(NSC Research Center)

Moreover, the national six-year college completion rate has plateaued, increasing by 0.3%. This has been the smallest increase in the past five years. Still, it has taken place in nearly all the states.

The slowed-down process is caused by traditional-age students and community college starters having lost ground. A recent report on college completion rates also tells us that the national eight-year completion rate fell by 0.5% for the first time in three years.

10. Over time, the college graduation rate for black students fell to 6.4%.


The overall dropout rate has been decreasing nationwide for years. Yet, the dropout rate for black college students remains higher than that for white students (4.2%). Additionally, 22% of black students between 18 and 24 are neither in school nor working.

11. 33% of dropout students at schools with a graduation rate under 40% return after one term.


Although many students leave college for good, some take a temporary break. Several studies suggest that at schools with graduation rates between 40% and 70%, and over 70%, the percentage of college dropouts that return after one term is 42%.

After one year, the percentage increases to 60% for these colleges. Similarly, 53% of dropped out students at schools with college graduation rates below 40% re-enroll after one year.

12. 56% of students at four-year colleges drop out within six years of studying.

(College Atlas)

It’s not easy to finish college, but it seems that, after six years, more than half of students feel it’s time to give up. If you’re in your sixth year, you should know that this is also the time when most students graduate.

College Dropout Facts and Stats

13. One in three college students drop out due to the imbalance between work and college.

(Creatrix Campus)

The problem of dropout rates at colleges at the moment is so big that the New York Times can safely claim that it has become a crisis. The lack of balance between college and work, or even home, can make college a burden. As a result, students become overwhelmed by the stress and drop out.

14. 51.04% of students who don’t have enough money to pay for their studies decide to drop out.


College dropout reasons statistics find money as the main reason for dropping out. However, another common reason is the inability to balance school, work, and family.

In a way, it’s tied to the main financial motivation, as students are forced to juggle their studies and jobs necessary to pay for those studies. Thus, the most common reason for high dropout rates is the lack of money for college.

15. If the college graduation rate of 57% increased to the high school graduation rate of 84%, there would be fewer college and university dropouts.


Logically, the college dropout rate per year would be much lower. Moreover, a total of 1.3 million more graduates would enter the workforce every year. Education statistics show that these people would have more chances of getting a job, and the unemployment rate would thus drop. Such a massive decrease in dropout rates from college would also entail fewer people stricken by poverty and less use of public assistance funds.

16. Computing is the degree with the highest college dropout rate — 10.7%.


The number of dropout college students varies across degrees and majors. After Computing, Advertising is another field of study that many students give up on — 7.7% of them. Moreover, due to the wide scope of knowledge students need to obtain an agriculture degree, 7.4% never complete it.

17. One in five students drop out from London Metropolitan University.

(Student Problems)

College dropouts statistics suggest that this university has the highest dropout rate in the UK. Out of the total number of enrolled people, 18.6% decide to leave it. The University of Bolton is second on this list, with 15.4% of dropped out students. In addition, the University of Bedfordshire ranks third with a 15.2% dropout rate.

18. 1% of students drop out from the University of Cambridge.

(Student Problems)

Simultaneously, the University of Cambridge is the one with the lowest student dropout rate in the UK. The most recent college students statistics find five more universities with a relatively low college dropout rate.

The University of Oxford has a 1.2% rate, the Royal College of Music has a 1.5% rate, and the Courtauld Institute of Art has a 1.6% dropout rate. The University of Bath and the Royal Academy of Music share the last place with a 1.7% dropout rate.

19. 47% of adults living with schizophrenia drop out from college.


A recent study reports that students with severe mental health issues often experience many problems on campus. Studies also reveal that students diagnosed with bipolar disorder are 70% more likely to drop out of college than students without a psychiatric diagnosis.

Other Statistics of College Dropouts

20. A third of college students diagnosed with depression abandon college.


Mental health issues can negatively impact one’s college if not appropriately managed. The research also implies that one-fifth of students suffering from depression would have stayed in college if campuses had provided proper support and treatment.

21. The dropout rate in higher education institutions in India is 2.82%.

(The Indian Express)

According to the new data on college dropout rates by country, the overall dropout rate in India’s higher education institutions has decreased from 7.49% in the last five years. Interestingly, the dropout rates in the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Institutes of Management are now less than one percent. They used to be 2.25% and 1.04%, respectively.

22. People without a degree are two times more likely to be unemployed than those who finish college.

(College Atlas)

College is expensive and hard to finish. However, completion rates and other statistics show that a college diploma is still crucial for your future employment. Language skills can also help college graduates find a job.

23. College dropout rate statistics show that only 11.6% of students who drop out will end up transferring and getting their degrees elsewhere.


The current data tells us that roughly one in ten students who drop out re-enroll elsewhere and graduate. This number is for four-year colleges. Still, it’s almost identical for two-year colleges and stands at precisely 11.2% at the moment.

24. The state with the lowest rate of college dropouts is Massachusetts — 56%.

(World Population Review)

According to the latest findings, the college student dropout rate is 59% in Colorado, 60% in Maryland, 60% in New Jersey, and 61% in Connecticut. On the other end of this spectrum, the top five states with the highest dropout rate are West Virginia (79%), Mississippi (78%), Arkansas (77%), Kentucky (76%), and Louisiana (76%).

25. Around 13% of college dropouts go back to school in the next five years.


According to a National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) report, only around 13% of college dropouts go back to school in the following five years. So you can see that the percentage of college dropouts who go back to school is pretty low. What’s worse, out of all those who re-enroll, only about a half eventually obtain a degree. Most of those who re-enroll go to community colleges, but some also choose online schooling.

The Bottom Line

Apparently, dropout rates for college students haven’t changed much over the years. Students still need a lot of support at home and on campus to do well in college. These stats can help you gain a better understanding of what they go through before they drop out. Hopefully, the insight will encourage you to try harder.

The percentage of college dropouts due to money is high, as we’ve already stated. The statistics show that around half of all college dropouts decide to drop out because they can no longer afford their studies.

The worse thing here is that, according to the same survey, 79% said that they thought about delaying their graduation because of financial issues. Furthermore, 55% said that they struggled to find money to pay for their studies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)