An Investigation of Student Attrition in Higher Education

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Student attrition is a primary matter of concern in the academic sector. Approximately 30 percent of freshmen in tertiary institutions in the United States drop out of school (Aulck et al. 16). The attrition rates have been attributed to reasons such as financial constraints and low motivation levels to complete school. Distinct parties are to blame for the high student attrition in tertiary organizations and it is important that they all implement the necessary strategies to minimize the school drop-out rates.

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Cause and Effect

Student attrition is an ongoing issue as it has been in existence since the early 1960s and several reasons are behind the substantial school dropouts in colleges and universities (Dorn 371). According to Cuseo, student withdrawal from school is primarily related to psychological, financial and motivational reasons (1). Learners drop out of higher education institutions because of their inability to pay for tuition fees, isolation, and their low levels of dedication to these learning organizations.

Tertiary institutions, students, parents and the government should altogether be held responsible for the high rates of school dropouts. Upon admission, new students mainly tend to struggle with adjusting to a new environment (Stolk et al. 61). It should be the role of higher learning organizations to ensure that it provides relevant programs to psychologically prepare students before commencing classes.

In addition, parents have a duty to ensure that their children have the access to basic needs including education. Some parents, particularly those from low-income families tend to overestimate the tuition costs and presume that they can no longer be in a position to pay (Mahan et al. 2). Unfortunately, the 21st century generation students face even more challenges and hence the retention rate among this group of learners is relatively low. The attrition rate is high among this group because they mostly navigate through tertiary education on their own (Mahan et al. 2). Parents without higher learning experience often lack proper information and social support to offer their children. Additionally, in regards to necessary preparation for applying to competent institutions, these parents fail to prioritize the enrollment process for their children (Mahan et al. 3). Ideally, some of these parents do not apprehend the link between one’s career goals and academic requirements.

The government should also be held responsible for the high student dropout being experienced across the education sector because they have an obligation of setting up regulations that protect students (Stolk et al. 60). However, students can be protected from all the adversities that would enable their successful completion of their studies, but still take learning for granted. Therefore, there is a need for a well-integrated system between the relevant educational stakeholders to ensure that student retention does not fall.


Researchers suggest several solutions to solve the subject of school dropouts. Student attrition cannot be solved by just one remedy because the issue revolves around many parties. Baum et al. assert that the government should subsidize tertiary education as soon as possible, particularly for students whose socioeconomic backgrounds hinder their school completion (7). Thus, the government should increase their financial assistance to students, to ensure that, if the need arises, learners take up lesser loans than they currently do.

Another remedy is that institutions should tailor their academic programs to suit the different needs of students (Hinton 23; Stolk et al. 61). It is about time that colleges and universities should review their courses to primarily make sure that the kind of education offered in the first year equips the trainees with adequate skills and literacy levels essential in regards to succeeding in post-secondary education.

Additionally, higher learning institutions, parents, and students should initiate the change. Hinton suggests that students should be provided with support services within the learning institutions soon enough to enable them to tolerate the challenges they encounter during their studies (23). Tertiary organizations should establish a community atmosphere that encourages healthy interactions among students, lectures and other staffs. Furthermore, students and parents should always consider both immediate and long-term repercussions associated with school dropouts (Blount 4). Without delay, institutions should encourage parents and trainees to always keep in mind that student attrition results in unemployment, public assistance, increased crime, incarceration, and homelessness among other social problems.

Ideally, the proposed solutions focus on minimizing school dropouts. Therefore, implementing the recommended strategies would help solve the main concern of student attrition and other issues such as poverty and criminal activities. Fortunately, integrating the solutions in the education sector would not hurt anyone as the remedies would be beneficial to various entities from students, learning institutions, parents, and the nation at large. According to Baum & Ma, completing higher education studies minimizes unemployment rates and individuals mostly tend to earn more than the dropouts (2). In addition, increased employment opportunities result in the generation of higher tax revenues to the government. Sabtu, Noor, & Isa assert that low retention rates project a negative image regarding universities and colleges academic status (197). Therefore, increasing retention rates among students would consequently create a good status for a tertiary institutes and their academic programs globally. Therefore, higher retention rates in tertiary institutions results to both beneficial to individual students and the educational system of a country.


In brief, parents, students, the government and tertiary organizations are to be held accountable for the alarming low retention rates. It is essential that each one of these entities realize that they all have a part to play and incorporate the suggested recommendations. Implementing the recommended strategies in time would help solve the subject of school dropouts in the tertiary organizations and any other social issues emerging from student attrition such as increased crime rates.

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