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Emotional Stress Top Reason For Higher Ed. Drop Outs

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Thursday, April 28, 2022   

Nationally, COVID-19 has been devastating for many people pursuing higher education. Almost a million stopped attending college or universities in the last two years.

But a new report from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation found 85% of those who dropped out, did so because of emotional stress, which can be driven by cost, family obligations, and even fear of contracting COVID.

Courtney Brown, vice president of impact and planning for the Lumina Foundation, said despite the challenges, the desire to get a degree remained.

"High percentages said that they know they need a degree or certificate to gain skills, to get a job," Brown reported. "The survey actually shows that there is a great value in higher education. And that is even for people who have never been part of higher education. "

Those surveyed included current students who left their programs during the pandemic, as well as those who were eligible but did not enroll.

More Black and multiracial students are struggling to take classes or stay in, according to the survey, citing difficulties in their ability to maintain coursework, on top of the other stresses.

Brown said the highest percentage of those considering coming back is also from the groups struggling the most. Students with annual incomes below $24,000 reported the greatest challenges remaining in college.

"Financial aid packages were the number one reason that students stayed enrolled, even when they were feeling stressed about it," Brown pointed out. "The fact that they were getting money to stay in school is really telling. We have to do a better job of communicating where opportunities exist for financial aid packages."

Gov. Greg Abbott allocated $94.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief money for higher education programs in Texas to support students navigating college during the pandemic.

Emotional stress is still skyrocketing, according to Brown, even with some sense of normalcy returning.

"So, these things are not going away," Brown acknowledged. "I think institutions need to pay attention to it and figure out how they can better serve the whole student; not just the academics of the student but the emotional health of the students also."

More than 11,000 high school graduates were surveyed. The most popular credentials, according to participants, are associate and certificate programs.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

Disclosure: Lumina Foundation for Education contributes to our fund for reporting on Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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