The Cost of College Attrition at Four-Year Colleges & Universities - An Analysis of 1669 US Institutions

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Educational Policy Institute


This report 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. 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.” 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 predictive formulas to determine the amount of revenue lost by the schools due to attrition for the 2010-2011 academic years.



Four-year colleges and universities, higher education costs, student financial aid, student retention