One in four uni students drop out: report

Karen Sweeney

Almost a quarter of students who enrolled in bachelor degrees this year won't have finished them by 2026, new research reveals.

That equates to around 53,000 students who will in effect drop out of university.

Almost a million Australians have left university without finishing their degree, but a survey by the Grattan Institute found most still got something from the experience.

On the job front almost a third say their stint at university helped them clarify their career goals, while almost half say they learnt useful skills.

More than half simply found the experience interesting while just one in five say they got nothing from the experience.

But while there are benefits, leaving university isn't cheap.

The average drop out student leaves with $12,000 of debt, while almost one in 10 walk away with debts of $30,000 or more.

"Without their degree, students may miss out on a career they wanted, and the additional lifetime earnings that, on average, graduates receive," the study also found.

To help address the cost issue associated with dropping out, the Grattan Institute has recommended universities more actively remind students about the census dates - the final day they drop out of their courses without paying fees, or that disengaged students be removed from the roll before the second semester.

As a more drastic approach the institute has suggested the government trial an opt-in approach to charging students rather than relying on students to opt out of their courses.

Students should also be advised about their risk of dropping out, particularly where there are identifiable factors like the student studying part-time.

Only 20 per cent of students enrolled part-time complete their degrees within eight years, while a further nine per cent are still enrolled.

In comparison, 80 per cent of full-time students have completed their degree at that point.