By Troy Miller
Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, Florida College Access Network

Every freshman believes they are going to finish college.  When polled, 85% of first-year students say they believe they’ll complete college in four years, even though only about 4 in 10 do so.  When students leave college before finishing, not only can it be costly for students and their families – it can be costly to their colleges.  According to a recent study from the Educational Policy Institute, four-year public and private universities in Florida lose over $688 million in revenue annually when students leave early.

We know each student enters college, intending to complete a goal significant to themselves and to their families. They are also tuition-paying customers purchasing a product. Put in fiscal terms, economists would say that students and graduates are the inputs and outputs of higher education.

When students are admitted, their colleges count on their tuition to support the institution to pay for things like instruction, academic support, student services, campus operations among other expenditures.  While institutions anticipate students leaving early in their budget calculations, the loss still represents dollars they don’t receive as revenue.  The report observes colleges can do much better at retaining students, thereby increasing their revenue by focusing on what students indicate are reasons they leave college early, such as “my college doesn’t care,” “poor service and treatment,” and “not worth it” (the author of the report has written extensively on the connection between poor “academic customer service” and retention).

The study estimates the cost of students leaving early for 1,669 four-year institutions in the United States. We pulled the 61 Florida’s colleges and universities from the report and placed them on the map below.  Colleges with high enrollments and low graduation rates tend to yield the highest loss of annual revenue from student attrition.  Florida Atlantic University (15,653 full-time enrolled undergraduates, 39% six-year graduation rate) had the highest estimated annual loss of revenue at just under $58 million while the Acupuncture and Massage College in Miami (74 full-time enrolled undergraduates, 83% six-year graduation rate) had the lowest at $68,957.

Map not appearing in your browser correctly?Click here. To access full EPI report, click here. ~Follow Troy Miller on Twitter @TroyMillerFCAN Photo credit:

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