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The Price of Non-completion


June 4, 2013

The Price of Non-completion

By: Ann Ultsch, ACTE intern, and Catherine Imperatore

Recently, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center put out a study that concluded that a significant number of students interviewed either did not finish their college degrees or did not complete them at the institution where they began their education:

  • 9.4 percent of students who started their education at a 2-year institution completed their education at a 4-year institution
  • 3.2 percent of students who originally enrolled in a 4-year institution ended up completing their education at a 2-year institution
  • 70 percent of students who were enrolled in college courses part-time had not completed their education within 6 years and were no longer enrolled in an institution

The National Center for Education Statistics has recently released data on the debt burden that non-completers face: in 2009, the median cumulative federal student debt for all non-completers amounted to 35 percent of their annual income. CLASP has also surveyed non-completers on why they left education. More than half stated the need to have a job and make money as their primary reason.

According to Jacobson and LaLonde in Using Data to Improve the Performance of Workforce Training, using statistics from Florida, 3 of 4 community college students fail to complete a high- or moderate-return program. Most complete a low-return program or do not complete. They suggest that students do not have the information needed to make the best training decisions.

High-quality CTE programs combat these issues through career exploration, career pathways, dual enrollment and articulation, and stackable credentials. These tools equip students to know what they want in a career and to pursue education at varying levels that meet their needs. CTE can also help students who need to work through college earn a higher wage, helping them stay in school and complete their education.

Ann Ultsch was an intern with the ACTE Public Policy Department in winter-spring 2013. She is a student at Wittenberg University in Ohio studying political science and English.

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