The 20 Million Missing Graduates: New Study Finds 65% of Americans Would Go Back to Complete Their College Degrees—If Time And/Or Money Weren’t Barriers

It’s commencement season and this year in America nearly four million graduates are readying their cap and gowns. But there’s a huge group of American students we rarely consider; those who started but never finished their degree. A new study titled, “The Opportunity Cost of Not Having a College Degree” points to affordability and flexibility as today’s biggest hurdles to completing higher education. 65% (or 20 million) of Americans surveyed who have not completed a college degree and are no longer taking classes (“noncompleters”) would want to go back to school if they could afford to (59%), and/or if classes were flexible around their schedule (58%), according to the study. The study, conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of University of the People among over 450 noncompleters, examines Americans who started but never completed higher education.

The nation-wide poll identified that the main reasons these individuals are not able to complete their college degree at this time —despite the pervasive belief that life would be better with one—are a lack of time and financial inability. 72% of American noncompleters feel they would have better career opportunities if they had finished their degree.

Shai Reshef, President of the online University of the People, says, “31 million people started higher education but had to drop out, many of them due to financial reasons and others simply because it wasn’t the right time for them to complete their degree. Most American noncompleters recognize the benefits of higher education, but either due to their lifestyle or lack of finances they are prevented from achieving this. Making higher education flexible, affordable, and high quality is the only solution for accommodating the millions of students who need to fit their studies around busy family, work, and life schedules. This is where the future of higher education is heading. This is exactly what we set out to accomplish at University of the People.”

Ithaka S+R Managing Director Catharine Bond Hill, an economist, former President of Vassar College, and University of the People President’s Council member, says, “For a nation that faces a widespread skilled labor shortage, coupled with a growing class of driven but unqualified workers, the findings of this study are critical. Life presents seemingly insurmountable obstacles for many students, but by stopping their education they risk the loss of the significant lifetime benefits of a degree: benefits which extend both to the individual and to the economy at large. This includes better jobs and socioeconomic mobility. Those with a college degree, for example, have median earnings that are about 65% higher than those with a high school diploma.”

Read more at Cision PR Web.