Nov 30, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

In 2015 and 2016, 3.9 million students dropped out of college.

The for-profit college industry contributed a disproportionate share of indebted dropouts

Of the 3.9 million undergraduate students who dropped out of school in 2015 and 2016, over 900,000 of them attended for-profit institutions—that’s 23 percent, according to a recent report by U.S. News and World Report—despite the fact that only 10 percent of all undergraduates attend for-profit institutions.

The data from the report does not state the percentage of students who took out loans who are dropping out and defaulting.

In the U.S. News article, Sandy Baum, an expert on higher education finance at the Urban Institute said, “The federal government provides these loans, and the students interpret that as a stamp of approval. They assume that the federal government wouldn’t give them money to go to an institution that doesn’t graduate its students.”

Though the data does not flatter the for-profit college industry, the Department of Education continues to release it.

For the for-profit institutions that have high tuitions and low-income populations, students with significant loans make up a large percentage of the student body.

The U.S. News and World Report’s study author, Jill Barshay at the Hechinger Report, found that the top five colleges with the largest numbers of students with debt who had withdrawn from school before graduating were all from for-profit schools.

Those top five schools yielded over 330,000 indebted college dropouts over two years.

Barshay also looked at dropouts as a percentage of student enrollments and found that of the top five schools, the largest had the best record, with only 40 percent of it population dropping out with debt each year.

What’s hard to see is the data for schools that cater to low-income students. Generally, the poorer the student population, the bigger the ratio of dropouts to student body.



Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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