PROOF POINTS: Lessons from college dropouts who came back

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In 2020, there were 39 million or one out of every five American adults under 65 who had dropped out of college and never finished their degrees, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Credit: NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images

Ron Floyd dropped out of New Jersey’s Seton Hall University after his junior year more than 20 years ago. His father, the family’s primary breadwinner, had just been laid off from work. Floyd said he lost interest in his studies, was doing poorly in his classes and didn’t want to burden the family with tuition bills. He returned home to East Windsor, Connecticut, to get a job.

Like many dropouts, Floyd always intended to finish his college education. His father was a college-educated aerospace engineer. But as the years went by, his student debt prevented him from even re-applying to college to resume his studies. Yet through good fortune, hard work and savings, Floyd was able to get back.

Floyd’s obstacles and how he overcame them matter because in 2020, there were a staggering 39 million American adults who had dropped out of college and never finished their degrees, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a nonprofit organization that collects and analyzes data from colleges and universities. That’s one out of every five adults under 65. The number of college dropouts swelled during the tight labor market; an additional 2 million people joined their ranks from only a year and a half earlier in 2018.

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