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A significant number of college students begin their post-high school educational career at one institution but finish up at another, and some never do complete their degree. A study of college behavior found that six years after starting, 40 percent of university students were not wrapping up their education at the same college where they started. Some of the attrition could be explained by student transfers from one college to another, but a Michigan State study found that a surprising number of them simply drop out.

To find out why college students decide to drop out the Michigan State researchers examined 1,000 surveys of college freshmen hailing from ten separate schools. The surveys asked the freshmen whether they had experienced any of 20 critical events such as bad grades, job placement, school recruitment or financial problems. Students were also asked if they intended to withdraw from school. Researchers learned that out of the given list of critical events, depression was the one most often connected to withdrawal from school. Other strongly contributing factors were problems with roommates, poor grades which took the student by surprise, financial struggles and recruitment to another school or job.

The students revealed that family financial woes caused them to feel stress and even guilt over their costly college education. Students also had meager expectations about being able to find suitable employment after the years and dollars invested in their college degree. The guilt, stress and hopeless attitude toward future prospects combine to create a depressive state.

Depression is a growing issue among all Americans and, evidently, college students are no exception. Perhaps no one should be surprised that a general angst has bled over into our places of higher learning and is affecting students standing on the brink between family-dependency and adulthood. The fact that students are depressed and worried over a potentially bleak future is by far the biggest reason behind the college dropout rate.

College records reveal that an increasing number of students are availing themselves of campus counseling services. Certainly the Michigan State study sheds light on the need to offer campus-based counseling services and mental health education. In fact, educational institutions which do not currently provide students with these kinds of services should take heed – the best way to keep students at school and in class is to help them learn to cope with these stressors.

The MSU team suggested that colleges are not the only ones who could protect their enrollment and participation levels by offering mental healthcare. Businesses would also find greater employee retention by offering easy access to counseling services.


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