Why Do Students Drop Out of Tech Studies?
Dropping Out is Tragic
Too many students for academic degrees drop out. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and a university dropout himself, related to the issue in an article for CNBC: “Over 44 million Americans collectively hold more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, and only 54.8 percent of students graduate in six years. This means that millions of Americans are taking on thousands of dollars in debt without a diploma to show for it. This is tragic, Not just for the students and their families, but for our nation.”
Gates ties the dropout phenomenon with the global skills gap in the job market: “Without more graduates, our country will face a shortage of skilled workers, and fewer low-income families will get the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.”
Computer Science Tops the Dropout Charts
A recent survey from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), revealed that among universities, Computer Science has the highest dropout rate – 9.8%. Followed by Business studies at 7.4% dropout rate, and then Engineering and Technology degrees closing the top of the dropout chart at a 7.2% dropout rate.
Why is this happening? What makes smart people, who got accepted to prestigious technology studies at universities in the U.S. and around the world, end their education journey midway? Identifying the drivers and finding measures to mitigate can help change the faith of millions of people and improve academic institutions’ completion rates and financial results.
Why People Drop Out of Tech Studies
Below are the 5 top reasons we found for the high dropout rate at tech studies, and more importantly, what can be done about it.
1. Financial problems
Many students can’t complete their studies due to high tuition and living costs. Some reach the point they have to drop out and find a job in order to pay their debt.
Fox Business analyzed data from LendEDU and FundingU, online student loan companies, and concluded that more than half of college students who dropped out did so because they were unable to find funding. Financial burdens stress students who don’t drop out. 55% of current college students said they struggle to find enough money to pay for college and nearly 79% added that they may need to delay graduation as a result of financial constraints.
The high tuition at universities and colleges is among the reasons why many people choose shorter training programs and online courses for their education, as the latter are substantially cheaper and allow graduates to complete their studies and return to work faster.
2. False expectations about the required commitment
Other students lose motivation and enthusiasm after understanding the hard work needed to complete their tech studies.
Milan Tair, who graduated Singidunum University with an Engineer of Business Informatics Degree, told ResearchGate: “Most of my colleagues were optimistic about learning programming at first and saw great possibilities, but when they learned the basics and were told that they have to program on a daily basis, and make bigger and more complex applications, they backed up and lost their enthusiasm, mostly because it would take up too much of their time.”
To avoid this, screening of potential students using pre-enrollment assessments is needed. Such assessment can ensure that only students with proper motivation and commitment get into the demanding tech programs. Incorporating advance screening results in eventual higher completion rates.
3. Lack of required skills, such as quantitative skills and mathematics
Students who sign up for Computer Science build on their excitement from computers and technology. They don’t necessarily realize that computer studies include a major mathematics part, for which they lack the proper skills.
Math and Logic are important skills for Computer Science and IT courses. If students know the hardships in advance, and verify their skill set matches the requirements, they stand a better chance for completion.
4. Not knowing how to ask for help.
Deborah L. Feldman interviewed more than 50 student dropouts and related to the paralyzing effect of intimidation: “A lot of students said they felt intimidated by their teachers, so in class they didn’t ask questions or say anything about struggles they were having.”
Shanvith Madhirala, a Computer Science major at Rutgers University, who has helped hundreds of students in key courses deducted that some students don’t make it because they’re too shy to ask for help. “Even the best programmers get stuck on certain problems. Taking the initiative to ask for help is a huge step forward. It shows that a student is willing to admit that they don’t know something and that he/she is willing to learn it.”
Shy students might feel intimidated by the studies and might fall behind and drop out. However, if trainers and faculty are more attentive, and students facing difficulty receive proper guidance and a little help from their friends, they could have far better chances at overcoming their shyness and eventually graduating. A buddy program, open office hours, and mentorships can do the trick.
5. Merits aren’t crucial for job finding
In some cases, people drop out because they reach their destination – a satisfying tech job or tech entrepreneurship – without finishing their technology degrees. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are known examples. Experience and skills can sometimes substitute academic degrees.
Ryan Casey, a Sr. Product Manager at Brandwatch, dropped out of his studies and don’t think an academic degree is necessary. “I decided to drop out and get a job where I spent every waking hour working on projects and learning. I learned about web development, servers, cloud computing, hacking, etc. It was high-level, but it helped me understand what I enjoyed and what I really didn’t.” Casey got his first tech job opportunity for his skills, not for his academic merits: “I started networking and found an entry-level job that projected my career.”
The concept of ‘can’t get a job without a degree’ is changing. Many people take shorter training programs or online courses to learn new topics and get new skills, and some employers focus more on experience and expertise than on academic degrees.
Dropouts, Misfits, and Education in the 21st Century
We can all relate to the hardships and challenges describes above, which prevented many Computer Science students from completing their studies. Can something be done so less students get to experience the disappointing effect of dropout?
Eran Lasser, Founder and CEO of Wawiwa Tech Training, is a graduate of Computer Science and Mathematics as well as Israel Defense Force’s elite computer training unit. Following decades of experience in training people in technology, Eran founded Wawiwa Tech Training, a company dedicated to bridging the global tech skills gap. Eran said, “Dropout rate is not a constant, it’s a result of misfit. The misfit is not the student, it’s a misfit between rigid academic degrees, the industry’s needs, and the education that people seek and crave in the 21st century.”
“If training to high-paying tech professions can be shorter and more focused, then it can be cheaper than a 3- or 4-year degree tuition.” Eran explains. “Graduates get jobs based on their concrete knowledge and skills that match the position’s requirements, as employers define them, not based on academic syllabi that are outdated by the time a student graduates.”
“In addition, it’s better to hold a vocational assessment and tell a prospective student, ‘listen, you’re not going to enjoy programming – it doesn’t correspond with your passions and skills,’ rather than admit the student, get her tuition, and let her find out the hard way that she’s made a mistake. Such assessments conducted in advance save time, money, and disappointment. At Wawiwa, we place crucial importance on the completion rate of the students in our tech training centers and their successful placement in tech jobs, and we reverse engineer and adapt every aspect of our programs to achieve these goals.”
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