Report: Millions Start But Never Finish College

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For the past two decades, more than 31 million Americans started college, but never walked across the stage to grab a diploma. That's from a recent report by the National Student Clearinghouse. Not earning that degree can prove to be a costly decision, as such people decrease their potential median annual earnings by about $16,000.

The group’s executive research director, Doug Shapiro, said there’s a growing national push to get more students to finish college.

But he said that won’t happen by strictly focusing on students’ right out of high school.

Instead, Shapiro said the report’s data points to a group that universities should focus on: the nearly four million adults who have completed roughly two years of courses, but have put their education on hold for a handful of reasons.

 “They had to take a job to save up more money for tuition, perhaps they’re stopping out for employment or family reasons or for military service, all sorts of reasons that students will stop out, and then come back on our own, sometimes two or three times,” he said.

The report refers to that group as “potential completers”.  Most are under the age of 30 and have been out of college for up to six years.

Shapiro said universities can better connect with those students by streamlining credit transfers or offering flexible classes combining both in-person and online learning geared towards working adults.