32% of 4-Year College Students Have Considered Withdrawing

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According to a poll conducted by the Lumina Foundation and Gallup, almost one third of students currently enrolled in a 4-year college degree program and 41% of students currently enrolled in a 2-year college degree program have considered withdrawing from school for a semester or more. [1]

Additionally, 36% of 4-year students and 39% of 2-year students reported it was difficult or very difficult to stay enrolled in college. Both groups said financial aid was a top reason they were able to enroll or stay in college. [2]

The most common reason students gave for thinking about withdrawal was emotional stress: 76% of bachelor’s students and 63% of associate’s students, a significant uptick from 2020 when 42% of bachelor’s degree students and 24% of associate degree students cited the same reason. [1]

The top four reasons students considered withdrawal were: emotional stress, cost of attendance, coursework was too difficult, and COVID-19. Bachelor’s students cited health reasons not related to COVID-19, while associate’s students cited childcare/caregiver responsibilities as the fifth most popular reason. [1]

The Lumina Foundation and Gallup also found only 9% of Americans without a college degree (including those currently enrolled in a degree program) believed “quality, affordable higher education is available to all Americans who want it.” 71% believed no more than half of Americans had access to such an education. [2]

But 44% of the respondents said a 2- or 4-year degree was more important for a “successful career” than it was two decades ago, putting those without a degree in a bind between cost and career necessity. [2]

Stephanie Marken, a Partner in the Education Division of Gallup, explained, “Students who stop out of higher education are also worse off than when they entered, with many carrying high debt levels without the benefit of a higher-earning degree. As such, understanding the drivers of stopping out of higher education has never been more important.” [1]

Discussion Questions

1. Is a college education worth it? Explain your answer(s).

2. What are some solutions to the problems students cite, including high cost, stress levels, and family obligations? Explain your answer(s).

3. What should be done about high levels of student debt? Explain your answer(s).


1. Stephanie Marken, “​​A Third of U.S. College Students Consider Withdrawing,” news.gallup.com, Apr. 27, 2022

2. Gallup and Lumina Foundation, “The State of Higher Education 2022 Report,” gallup.com, 2022

3. Stephanie Marken, “Few Say Quality, Affordable U.S. Higher Ed Widely Available,” news.gallup.com, May 4, 2022