Mental Health Tops the List of Reasons College Students Consider Dropping Out of School

A new Lumina Foundation and Gallup 2024 State of Higher Education Study finds 35% of college students have thought about leaving school in the past six months. The top reasons given are mental health and stress.

Current and prospective students pursuing a bachelor’s degree are prioritizing their wellbeing. When asked why they would consider stopping their coursework, more than half of respondents (54%) say it would be due to emotional stress and 43% say it would be for mental health reasons. The cost of attendance rounds out the top three responses with 31%.

Emotional stress is the reason many students (67%) pursuing a bachelor’s degree have considered pausing their studies or leaving their program altogether. On the other hand, 56% say it is due to their mental health. 

Female students more than their male counterparts consider dropping out of school due to mental health and stress. The study found 64% of female college students have contemplated dropping out of their program due to emotional stress compared to 37% of male college students. Likewise, 52% of female college students have deliberated over remaining in their program for mental health reasons, compared to 27% of male college students.

“Overall declines in wellbeing began pre-pandemic, and COVID-19 only exacerbated these challenges,” Stephanie Marken, a senior partner in the Education Division, wrote. “Unfortunately, Gallup finds that lower levels of happiness, along with heightened negative emotions, continue post-pandemic. In fact, the “World Happiness Report” confirms that the U.S. has lost its spot in the top 20 happiest countries for the first time in the publication’s 12-year history, and the decline is in part due to declines in youth happiness.”

Read the full report

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