College Deferrals: Facts and Statistics
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In 2020, 15% of students surveyed said they planned to defer their enrollment by at least a semester, and overall between 30,000 and 40,000 students take time off for one semester or more during college. Among students who leave college without a degree, only 13% return within five years to continue. These and additional findings have been presented below, which provide insight on the numbers and percentages of students who choose to defer their college enrollment and how many return after doing so.

College Deferrals

Title: ‘Making the most of a gap year before college’

  • Relevant Data: Between 30,000 and 40,000 students take time off from college for a semester or more.
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Credibility: This data was published by the American Gap Association (AGA), a nonprofit organization that accredits gap year programs and was republished by CNBC.
  • A link to the source can be found here.

Title: ‘COVID-19 and US higher education enrollment: Preparing leaders for fall’

  • Relevant Data: 50% of students surveyed said they planned to change their college plans due to COVID-19 and of these, 15% said their plan was to defer their enrollment by at least a semester.
  • Publication Date: May 2020
  • Credibility: This data was published by consulting firm, McKinsey, and was compiled via survey analysis.
  • A link to the source can be found here.

Title: ‘Examining the Effect of College Enrollment Delay on Labor Market Trajectories’

  • Relevant Data: “Over one in three college students who started in 2012 did not immediately enroll in college.”
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Credibility: This data appeared in an academic research report published by Columbia University and was originally sourced from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.
  • A link to the source can be found here.

College Returns

Title: ‘Why Do So Many Americans Drop Out of College?’

  • Relevant Data: Only 56% of students who start a bachelor’s degree program finish within six years, 29% who start an associate’s degree finish within three years, and 46% of all Americans complete a college program they begin.
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Credibility: This data was originally derived from a Harvard study titled ‘Pathways to Prosperity’, as well as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  • A link to the source can be found here.

Title: ‘The Disadvantages of Postponing College’

  • Relevant Data: “Among those who wait a year or two after high school to attend college, only about 40 percent complete a degree program.”
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Credibility: This data was originally compiled by the U.S. Department of Education and was later republished by SeattlePi, a local media website.
  • A link to the source can be found here.

Title: ‘How Many College Dropouts Go Back To School?’

  • Relevant Data: “Tens of millions of Americans—about 14% of the country’s population—left college without getting a degree, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). […] In 2014, there were 29 million individuals with some college but no degree, more than the entire population of college students enrolled that year. NSC tracked those students and found that just 3.8 million (13%) enrolled in college again during the subsequent five years. Only about half of those have earned a degree or are still enrolled today.”
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Credibility: This data was originally published by National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization that conducts educational research and was republished by Forbes.
  • A link to the source can be found here.
GLENN TREVOR
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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