Students of color more likely to consider leaving college, says Gallup

Undergraduate enrollment rose last fall for the first time since the pandemic, boosted in part by growth in enrollment of students of color. However, work still remains to ensure Black and Latine students have the support they need to complete their degree, according to the results of the 2024 Lumina-Gallup State of Higher Education Study released this February.

On behalf of the Lumina Foundation, Gallup conducted web-based surveys in Fall 2023 of 6,015 students currently enrolled in a bachelor’s, associate, certificate, or certification program; 5,012 U.S. adults who left their programs; and 3,005 adults who had never enrolled in a post-secondary program.

The percentage of all currently enrolled students who said they considered stopping coursework improved over the prior year, falling from 41% in 2022 to 35% in 2023. However, a greater percentage of Latine (42%) and Black (40%) students said they had considered leaving their program in the past six months, compared with their white peers (31%). While the percentage of Latine students who considered withdrawing in 2023 was 10 percentage points lower than in 2022 and returned to 2020 levels, the percentage of Black students who said they thought about stopping out was consistent with 2022 results and higher than 2021 and 2020.  

Related: To boost Latine enrollment, colleges need to meet students’ financial needs >

Stress, mental health, finances: top reasons to leave college

Most students across all racial and ethnic groups—50% of Black and Latine currently enrolled students and 53% of white students—said emotional stress was their top reason for thinking about leaving their program, consistent with previous Lumina-Gallup reports from 2021 and 2022. Personal mental health and the cost of the degree or credential program rounded out the top three reasons students of all racial and ethnic groups considered stopping out.

Addressing college costs can be a significant factor in attracting unenrolled Black and Latine adults, with 59% of adults in both groups citing financial aid or scholarships as the most important tool to get them to enroll in a postsecondary education program in the next 12 months. Over half of Black and Latine unenrolled adults ranked confidence in the value of the degree or credential, increases in personal income, and greater flexibility in work or personal schedule as other top reasons to enroll.

Related: Report shows impact of emotional stress, importance of support networks >

Around six in 10 unenrolled adults said they considered enrolling in a postsecondary program in the past two years, a figure consistent across all racial and ethnic groups. Among an industry certification, a certificate, an associate, or a bachelor’s degree, unenrolled Black and Latine adults showed more interest in certificate and associate degree programs.

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