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Hey, college dropouts, stop costing taxpayers millions!

Jenna Johnson

The American Institutes for Research announced Monday that students who drop out of college before their sophomore year cost taxpayers millions. Between 2003 and 2008, the national tallies reached $6.2 billion in state appropriations and $2.9 billion in grants. The state average was about $120.5 million.

As if dropouts did not already have enough guilt on their shoulders.

Only about 60 percent of students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities graduate within six years -- a number that President Obama has vowed to increase by 2020. Most students attend public institutions, and their education is subsidized by taxpayers at the average rate of about $10,000 per student per year, according to an American Institutes for Research news release.

It's not that students are dropping out with the intent of wasting taxpayer dollars. Some aren't prepared for the rigor of college classes. Others have interests better met by two-year programs. And many simply can't afford it.

A 2009 Public Agenda report funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that the No. 1 reason students gave for dropping out was an inability to juggle school, work and paying bills. Other reasons included not being able to afford tuition and fees, needing a break, classes that were not useful and needing more time to spend with family.

How does your school or state measure up on such issues? A new website,, tracks graduation rates, first-year retention rates, education-related cost per student, cost per degree, student loan default rates, and the ratio of student loan payments to earnings for recent graduates for 1,576 four-year public and private colleges.

The study (which you can read here) focused just on four-year institutions and not community colleges, where first-year dropout rates are even higher. It also did not look at students who dropped out after their sophomore year.

So, which states spent the most money on dropouts between 2003 and 2008? Well, here's the list, in college ranking fashion:

1) California, $467 million

2) Texas, $441 million

3) New York, $403 million

4) Illinois, $290 million

5) North Carolina, $285 million

6) Ohio, $277 million

7) Florida, $275 million

8) Indiana, $268 million

9) Michigan, $239 million

10) Georgia, $237 million

11) Louisiana, $213 million

12) Tennessee, $205 million

13) Kentucky, $201 million

What do you think of this study? What can public colleges and universities do to increase graduation rates?

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | October 11, 2010; 12:09 PM ET
Categories:  News Overload  
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Having the highest rate of college graduates in the world means little if many of the people holding those degrees aren't benefitted by them. If college is the norm and everyone has a degree, then a college degree will have less value overall. It's important to recognize that not all people need to go to college. And that's okay. Taxpayers' money is wasted even more if people dropping out of college now (for reasons unrelated to inability to pay) were to finish school and never use their degrees. In addition to that, increasing college enrollment and graduation rates reinforces the exorbitant cost of a college education, making it less accessible to people who would benefit from the degree but have limited financial resources.

Posted by: Careared | October 15, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

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