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New Report on the Cost of Student Attrition in Higher Education

Report showcases billions of dollars lost due to student attrition


WASHINGTON, DC — February 6, 2013 — The Educational Policy Institute has released a new report on attrition of students in US higher education that costs taxpayers, students, and parents over $16 billion dollars annually.


The report, authored by Dr. Neal Raisman, an expert on student retention and persistence in higher education, 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.


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.” The report calculated the average six-year graduation and attrition rates of 1669 private, public and for-profit four-year colleges and universities then applied predicative formulas to determine the amount of revenue lost by the schools due to attrition for the 2010-2011 academic years.


The 1,669 colleges and universities studied in this report collectively lost revenue due to attrition in an amount close to $16.5 billion ($16,451,945,426) with the largest single school losing $102,533,338, the smallest single loss being $10,584, and the average school losing $9,910,811. The publicly assisted colleges and universities averaged a $13,267,214 loss from attrition; the average private college or university lost revenue of $8,331,593; and for-profit schools lost an average of $7,921,228. These are dollars that may have been calculated into the budgets of the schools but are still dollars not received as revenue. They remain as losses to revenue and at the very least $16.5 billion dollars left on the table nationally.


And as this study shows, the loss of revenue from attrition for schools is significant and hurtful to the financial well-being of colleges and universities. The financial and personal losses to the students are equally significant.


CLICK HERE to download the report (8MB).



Educational Policy Institute is a Washington, DC-based non-profit corporation focusing on high-level research and analysis to support the expansion of educational opportunity in K-12, postsecondary education, and the workforce. For more information, please visit