More than Half of Middle Class Students Not Graduating from College

About a third cite financial reasons

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According to, more than half of middle class kids who enter college are failing to earn bachelor’s degrees within six to eight years. “Middle class” is defined as having a household income of $46,000–$99,000.

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A college degree is widely considered a ticket to the middle class—the “gold standard,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center of Education and the Workforce. That’s one reason why a lot of effort is going into getting lower income children into and through four-year colleges. But there is much less research being done on middle class students.

The U.S. Department of Education tracks college graduation rates in two ways, says: It follows high school graduates after they leave school; and separately, it tracks all Americans who enter college in a particular year. Both methods revealed that less than half of middle class students were graduating from college.

Of those students who entered college in 2004, only 40% had earned bachelor’s degrees by 2012, according the Education Dept.’s first tracking method. The second found similar results: Of students from families with household incomes of between $60,000 and $92,000 who entered college in 2003, only 45% had earned their degree. About a third of the students cited financial concerns as a reason for dropping out.

Students from high-income households graduated at the rate of 63%.