Giving Compass' Take:

• Delece Smith-Barrow explains that data shows that as of December 2018, there were 36 million Americans with some higher education but no degree. 

• Without a degree, people who attended school face a job market with a disadvantage while still burdened by student debt. How can funders work to prevent and address this situation? 

• Learn about barriers to college completion

Not everyone who enrolls in college will leave with a certificate or degree, but the number of people who drop out or take a break is much higher than experts previously believed. In December 2013, there were 29 million people with some college education but no degree.

That number jumped to 36 million by December of 2018, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

These data alarm the experts, considering all the messaging about the need for postsecondary education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2016 and 2026, employment will grow by 10 percent for jobs that require a bachelor’s degree – faster than the growth projected for all occupations. And even those with a certificate make more, on average, than those who have taken college classes but have not finished their education. College graduates are also more likely to share their wealth with charities and to volunteer, according to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

There are many reasons why the number of people who started college but didn’t finish rose.

For one, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has better data now, said Mikyung Ryu, the center’s director of research publications. In the last five years, some institutions have gotten better at submitting student data, allowing the center to improve its ability to track students and analyze outcome measures.

Plus, the job market plays a role in the increase. “Economic motivation is a factor,” Ryu said. Between 2014 and 2018, the economy improved as it recovered from the Great Recession, and that could have pushed some students to leave school for a strong job market.

About two-thirds of students with some college but no degree started at a community college or were last enrolled at a community college, according to the National Student Clearinghouse report. The average time out of school for all former students was 10 years.

Read the full article about students leaving college without a degree by Delece Smith-Barrow at The Hechinger Report.