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‘Stopping Out’ Can Lead to Dropping Out

Between work obligations, family life and the need for a little down time every now and then, some students may decide they need a temporary break from school.

The term “stopping out” refers to students who leave a course of study, but eventually return after time away from academics. It’s a choice often motivated by economic factors, but one with long-term implications that may come as a surprise.

In a study of 38,000 community college students, about 94% reported stopping out at some stage on their path to a degree. Of the students who ultimately returned to complete their bachelor’s degree, about three-quarters had taken just one break from school.

The degree completion rate declined significantly for students who stopped out twice or more, according to the 2013 study by a Florida State University researcher.

There are a multitude of reasons why students step away. For Crystal Hunter, a workplace injury led to her withdrawing from school when she was only two classes away from earning an associate’s degree.

Fortunately, the mother of three was able to restart her education by enrolling in New England College’s 100% online Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration program, graduating in 2015.

“You have to push past the circumstances,” Hunter said. “You have to keep your eye straight on what you do. You have to get back up and keep moving forward. It pays off, believe me.”

With much at stake in terms of future earnings potential, career opportunities and professional advancement, students need to lean on as many resources as necessary in order to complete their degree.

Here are some tips that may help you press on and stay the course you set yourself on the day you enrolled in college.

Find a Balance

As of 2013, about 40% of full-time college students in their teens and early 20s were employed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Three out of four part-time students in that age group were working.

Additionally, 26% of undergrads nationwide have dependent children in their care, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported in 2014.

If you’re holding down a job while attending school – and perhaps raising a family – it’s vital that you hone your time management skills and develop a solid schedule and routine. Otherwise, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and tempted by the idea of stopping out.

Cameron Grant is proud of the time management skills she acquired as an online student at New England College.

“As a mother of two young children who works full time, I had to implement some very creative time management strategies in order to complete assignments on time,” said Grant, who earned her BS in Healthcare Administration.

Learning how to organize and prioritize time as a student can help establish a solid foundation for managing the increasing demands of deadlines and workloads often associated with higher-level professional roles.

“You have to make sure you’re committed,” Grant advised. “You’ll only be successful at distance learning if you’re committed to investing what it takes to do well.”

See School as Good for Your Budget

A college education requires not just a commitment of time, but also an investment of financial resources. For working students trying to juggle income and expenses, a bump in pay may cause them to reconsider the benefits of earning their degree.

Indeed, the Florida State study found that community college students whose wages increased during school were more likely to stop out and less likely to graduate.

For such students, however, the prospect of short-term gain may obscure the potential for long-term benefits. Across professions, many higher-level positions call for candidates to have a college degree.

A 2014 study from The Brookings Institution found that the earnings profile of a bachelor’s-degree holder, regardless of college major, is significantly higher than that of a high school graduate over the first 40 years of working life.

Similarly, figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that employees with a bachelor’s degree had substantially higher median weekly earnings and lower unemployment rates in 2014 compared to workers with just a high school diploma.

Grant said her bachelor’s degree from New England College puts her in a position to assume a leadership role.

“I’ve reached a point where I’m at the top of where I can go without a degree,” she said. “I couldn’t make more money or get another promotion without one.”

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