The Cost of College Attrition at Four-Year Colleges and Universities. Policy PerspectivesReport as inadecuate

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Educational Policy Institute

This report, an analysis of 1669 U.S. institutions, is a first-time study of the relationship of attrition to revenues lost in four-year public, private, and for-profit colleges and universities on an annual basis. The report is the result of a study investigating the financial impact of attrition on four-year colleges and universities. Other studies of attrition and graduation rates report on the number of students lost to attrition but do not deal with the effects of the attrition on the schools' fiscal situation. Realizing that every student who attends a college or university represents direct revenue to the school through tuition paid directly to the school, or through a public formula that pays X number of dollars on a per student basis to the college or university, it appears apparent that when a student leaves the school the revenue received through tuition is lost either immediately or when the formulas are recalculated. Thus, a study of the relationship of attrition to dollars lost would indicate the effects of attrition on a school's revenues and thus its fiscal condition. The study is based on data collected from colleges and universities directly, through IPEDS, the Educational Trust, college and university websites and reporting, as well as the College Board "Annual Survey of Colleges 2010."

Descriptors: Student Attrition, Costs, Income, Public Colleges, Private Colleges, Proprietary Schools, Educational Finance, Graduation Rate, Tables (Data), College Students

Educational Policy Institute. 6900 Wisconsin Avenue Suite 606, Bethesda, MD 20815. Tel: 202-657-5207; e-mail: info[at]; Web site:

Author: Raisman, Neal


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