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College dropouts struggle with student debt

In the past ten years, the college enrollment rate has increased by nearly 40 percent. However, what was previously considered to be a logical, if not necessary next step after high school is now being looked at more closely, with the jump in student debt and the lack of jobs for new graduates.

But these problems are even more dire for the students who enroll in college and end up dropping out. These students are taking out student loans at the same rates of those who eventually graduate, but are much less able to pay them back. In fact, college dropouts default on their loans about four times more than graduates.

According to a recent study by The Education Trust, more than 75 percent of students who enroll in private, for-profit colleges never receive a degree. The problem is not unique to those institutions, however: all colleges have reported increases in dropouts in the last decade.

Similarly, the number of students who dropped out after taking out student loans has also increased. Ten years ago, less than 25 percent of students who took out loans ended up dropping out. Now, that number is near 30 percent.

Critics say that these rising numbers are indicative of the need to reexamine the public policies that push access to higher education without giving students the tools to pay for their schooling or finish their degrees. According to Jack Remondi of student loan lender Sallie Mae, a student with debt but no diploma is not set up for success. "They have the economic burden of the debt," he said, "but they do not get the benefit of higher income and higher levels of employment that one gets with a college degree."

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "College dropouts are drowning in debt," Suzy Knimm, May 29, 2012