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25 Statistics & Reasons Not to Go to College: 2020 Data & Analysis

Category: B2B News

Higher education is expensive, and with the current financial aid becoming more like a ball of chain dragging students through mountains of debt, we are forced to give higher learning a second look: Is college worth it? And more and more students seem to be saying that it isn’t.

In this article, we will delve into the numbers that will shed some light on why there are students who choose not to attend college at all, as well as those who did but did not graduate. This article, why students don’t go to college statistics, might also help you decide if college is the right path for you to take, as well as what other options you have ahead.

reasons not to go to college

1. The Big Picture: Continuous Enrollment Decline

The reasons not to go to college statistics are an interesting blend of practical, generational, and economic factors. According to the National Student Clearing Research Center, the spring enrollment of 2018 records a 1.3% drop from 2017’s numbers. For the first time in ten years, the number of United States college enrollees fell under 18 million. Come 2019; college enrollees continue to drop in numbers, this time by 1.7% from the previous year’s total.

Over the years, the value that the American population has placed on higher education has diminished with the high cost of college education being a major deterrent.

Source: College Tuition Compare

Within the last ten years, college tuition fees have increased by more than 25%. While this may not be the entire reason and is sometimes used as one of the excuses for not going to college, the cost of higher education is an underlying factor. Students would rather chase economic opportunities than a degree that would cost them thousands of dollars to attain.

  • 51% of adults in the US believe that college education is important compared to 70% in 2013 (Gallup, 2019).
  • Only about 35% of the US population, aged 25 and older have a college degree or higher in 2018 (US Census Bureau, 2019).
  • 23% of respondents cite that they can’t afford college (HuffPost, 2017).
  • 16% of respondents don’t go to college because they already have a good job (HuffPost, 2017) 

2. There are Students Who Want to Go to College But Could Not Maintain It

Students who decide to pursue college face a new set of challenges. According to studies, the likelihood of dropping out is high, especially for first-generation college students. Part-time students are also more likely to not finish college compared to their peers who attend full time. Although financial support is still the most significant issue, academic preparedness also plays a role in the dropout rate.

  • Approximately 23% of students drop out during their fourth year (Education Data, 2019).
  • 30% of freshmen drop out before their second-year in college (Education Data, 2019). 
  •  Financial pressure makes up 38% of the reasons why students drop out of college (Education Data, 2019).  
  •  28% of the reasons why students drop out of college is because they are not academically equipped enough (Education Data, 2019).
  • 13% of the reasons why students drop out of college is because they struggle to fit in the social environment (Education Data, 2019).
  •  60% of students who drop out of college do not receive financial help from parents (Education Data, 2019). 
  • 40% of students who drop out of college have parents who did not attend college (College Atlas, 2018)

Reasons Why Students Drop Out of College

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Source: Education Data

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3. The Student Loan Issue

Student loan is the primary assistance for students who cannot financially support their college education; it does not only cover tuition fees but also other expenses (i.e., books, room, and board, etc.) This is a tremendous help, especially if you are taking one of the most expensive majors or are studying in one of the most expensive US colleges or both. But while it helps you go through college, it is also a huge responsibility.

Below are some relevant student loan statistics:

average debt of university students

4. Long-Term Effects of Student Debt

While student loan momentarily takes the financial weight off of students’ shoulders during their four or six years in college, the burden of student loan repayment is handed back to them the moment they graduate or quit, which can last until retirement. Studies show that student debt is currently affecting not only young adults but generations of Americans, especially the age group in their retirement years.

  • As of 2019, the total student loan debt in the US is $1.52 trillion, making it the largest debt category in the country after mortgage (, 2019).
  • Standard repayment period of student loans is between 10 to 30 years (  
  • Borrowers from the age group of 35 to 49 have the highest total amount of student debt at $548.4 billion (, 2019)
  • A total of $67.8 billion student loan is still being paid by respondents who are 62 years old and older (, 2019). 
  • A study on the economic wellbeing of American (US) households from 2016 to May of 2017 shows that 93.7% of debt holders have student loans (Federal Reserve, 2017).
  • A study shows that student debt prevents 31% of Baby Boomers (ages 54-72) from saving for their retirement (AARP, 2019). 
  • 48% of households within the Baby Boomer demographic and 44% of Millenial and Gen X households consider student loans as a major problem  (AARP, 2018). 

baby boomers and student loan

5. A College Degree Is Not a Golden Ticket to Your Dream

A Forbes article claims that the unemployment rate of college graduates is at its highest in 2019. Underemployment statistics do not look better either. While college majors play a factor in the employment rate, statistics still show that there are 20 college majors recorded to have an underemployment rate of above 50%.

  • Less than 50% of college graduates are successful in finding a purposeful work (Gallup, 2019) 
  • As of February 2019, the unemployment rate of recent college graduates in the US by major goes as high as 7.9% (New York Fed, 2019). 
  •  Recent college graduates have an underemployment rate of as high as 73% based on their major (, 2019).
  • By the end of 2019, 33.8% of college graduates in the US are underemployed (New York Fed, 2020).

Source: New York Fed

The College Alternative

College is seen as the beacon for students and families aiming for a brighter future. But with the critical state of student debt, preference for vocational or career and technical education courses is becoming more evident in studies on various trade school college statistics. These schools provide technical and practical training for students looking for career options that don’t require a college degree.

Technology statistics also show promising industry growth, which opens more opportunities to non-college degree professions, such as those that fall under web design trends and cybersecurity.

Keep in mind, however, that trade school is not a college replacement but a practical alternative, especially for students who don’t see a four-year college degree as a worthy investment. Although a bachelor’s degree and higher education remain as ideal choices, with all things considered, it is up to the student to determine if college is indeed worth it.

Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

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