Can You Quit College? Financial Cost and Other Consequences

In the US, the average college dropout rate is 40%. So, in other words, it’s not at all that uncommon.

When you face the challenges of college life, you have a couple of options: power through postsecondary education with all your might or turn your back on it and try a different route to success.

Thinking about quitting college anytime from now? Here’s the truth.

In general, students can quit college. Some of them drop out as a deliberate choice, while others do so as a result of extenuating circumstances. However, it is strongly suggested to discuss quitting with your advisor to minimize repercussions.

Reasons for Quitting College

Reasons for dropping out of college can be as varied as reasons for attending college.

For some, staying in college isn’t practical because of things such as the cost, difficulty balancing priorities in life and the presence of family or personal problems.

Others realize that college may not be the best option.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why some undergraduates quit:

Financial difficulties

According to Think Impact, up to 55% of college students struggle to finance their postsecondary education.

Of those, about 51% quit.

Some, however, go back to college after some time to finish what they started — according to the same source, approximately 79% of all college students delay their graduation due to financial woes.

Personal or family issues

Encountering a health-related issue can impact one’s studies unfavorably, usually leading to low or failing grades.

In some instances, it’s a much better idea for the student dealing with a medical problem to drop out of college.

The same is true for someone whose family problem is keeping them from focusing on the books and getting good grades.

Unpreparedness for college

Some college students find themselves unable to face the challenges college poses.

In some instances, such as in the case of 52% of all community college students, many feel that their high schools did not prepare them enough for college-level coursework. Many believe that the only solution is to remove themselves from the campus.

Major dissatisfaction

Based on statistics, around 20% to 50% of students head to college undecided. On the other hand, about 75% of them switch majors at least once before graduation.

Some students, despite being given 2 years to make up their minds or changing their majors, may find that quitting college is the answer to picking the wrong major for them.

Attending the wrong college

There are instances where the major isn’t the problem — there are times, too, when it’s the college itself that can cause an undergraduate student to quit.

Not being happy with the academics, student support, campus culture and location can make it difficult for many to stay in college long enough to earn their respective degrees.

Stress or burnout

According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), around 40% of all full-time undergraduates have jobs.

It also says that more than 20% of them are student parents. With so many things in life to juggle, it’s not uncommon for some students to turn their backs on college to focus on other important things in life.

Other paths toward success

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) says that bachelor’s degree holders in the US make 84% more money than those whose highest educational attainment is high school.

But some individuals who find routes toward their dream careers other than working on an undergraduate degree may quit college.

What are the Cons of Quitting College?

On average, college dropouts experience twice as many of life’s disadvantages as opposed to those who stay in school to earn an undergraduate degree on time.

Quitting college, in many instances, can bring problems ranging from paying off educational debt to a shorter lifespan.

The following are some of the disadvantages you may encounter for dropping out of college:

Paying back loans

Whether an undergraduate who borrows money finishes college or stops in the middle of it, he or she will still have to pay back educational loans.

The problem with dropping out of postsecondary education is that the individual, in most instances, does not enjoy the same earning potential as college graduates that can facilitate paying off debt.

Lower earning potential

College dropouts who get lucky enough to have a job tend to make less money than individuals who are armed with a bachelor’s degree.

A report by the NCES shows that the median annual earnings of those who have completed their undergraduate degrees amount to $59,600. That’s $39,900 for those with some college but no degree.

Lower employment rate

Speaking of earnings, the employment rate for individuals with some college but no undergraduate degree is 75%, says a Forbes report.

While the figure is definitely higher than the employment rate for those whose highest educational attainment is high school (68%), it’s also substantially lower for bachelor’s degree holders (86%).

Shorter lives

Believe it or not, based on a report by the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, Americans with less education tend to have poorer health and shorter lives. Individuals who quit college usually have increased factors for some major diseases — they are more likely to report having heart problems and diabetes.

Failed relationships

It’s not just the existence of non-college graduates that’s short-lived but also their romantic or marital relationships.

According to a report by the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF), the rate of divorce for couples with a college degree is around 50% lower than that for couples whose highest educational attainment is high school.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) says that the rate of single parenthood among college graduates is lower than among those with less education.

Difficulty going back to college

Last but not least, college dropouts who want to give working on an undergraduate degree one more chance may fail to succeed.

As a matter of fact, according to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), only about 13% of those who quit college return during the next 5 years. Of those, only about 50% earn an undergraduate degree.

Just Before You Consider Quitting College

In some instances, dropping out of college may be the best solution. But there are times, too, when it’s not the only option available — some solutions may make more sense, thus allowing a student to dodge the cons of quitting.

Still considering turning your back on college despite the downsides discussed above?

Make sure that you talk to your parents beforehand. Most colleges and universities in the country provide attendees with campus counselors and academic advisors.

If the institution you are attending has one or both, immediately make an appointment and talk with a professional before you make your final decision.

Related Questions

Is it okay to stop college for a year?

It’s common knowledge that some high school graduates who need more time to make up their minds on higher education-related matters are recommended to take a gap year. A gap year, contrary to popular belief, may also be taken at any given time during college if students feel like they could benefit from it.

Is dropping out or failing better in college?

Dropping is better than getting a failing grade. But between dropping and withdrawing, the former is the better choice. That’s because dropped classes do not appear in the transcript. In either case, getting a failing grade is bad because it can affect the GPA and one’s eligibility to a competitive school or program.


  1. College Dropout Rates
  2. New Survey Shows Community College Students Feel Unprepared for the Rigors of Higher Education
  3. The Developmental Disconnect in Choosing a Major: Why Institutions Should Prohibit Choice until Second Year
  4. College Student Employment
  5. Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment
  6. How does a college degree improve graduates’ employment and earnings potential?
  7. New Report Shows College Degree Continues To Provide Better Employment Prospects And Higher Income
  8. How Many College Dropouts Go Back To School?
  9. Education: It Matters More to Health than Ever Before
  10. Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education
  11. Single Mothers in College: Growing Enrollment, Financial Challenges, and the Benefits of Attainment

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.