The strength of the labor market is pushing more and more students to abandon their college studies.

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Carol Yepes | time | Getty Images

A college education is seen as the ticket to a better career and higher salary.

And yet, there is no shortage of opportunities today for job seekers, graduates or not.

In April, employers added 428,000 jobs and wages rose 5.5% year over year. For some currently enrolled students, this may be too good to resist.

Students are choosing to earn rather than learn right now.

Daniel Rosensweig

CEO of Chegg

“Students are choosing to earn rather than learn right now,” Daniel Rosensweig, CEO of online education company Chegg, said in an interview on “TechCheck” recently.

They’re taking fewer classes so they can work more hours, and some are opting out altogether, he said.

“And you really shouldn’t blame them, should you? It’s a smart and prudent business decision for them right now, which is if their salaries are doubled and tripled, why not not take that money and give more hours and take fewer classes or no classes,” Rosensweig said.

According to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report based on college data, fewer students returned to school this year, leading to an additional 3.1% drop in undergraduate enrollment compared to last year. ‘last year.

College undergraduate enrollment is now down 6.6% from two years ago, a loss of more than one million students.

Even more students are withdrawing next year.

As many as 17% of current students said they would not return and 19% are unsure of their plans, according to a poll by Intelligent.com, which surveyed 1,250 undergraduates in April. Students nearing graduation are most likely to drop out, according to the report.

Most cite the strength of the job market as the reason – 31% of students considering leaving school said they want to take advantage of increased employment opportunities and find a job. Of course, the rising cost of a college education and soaring student loan balances have also played a role.

And yet, studies show that college graduates will earn nearly a million dollars more over their careers.

“The potential loss to income and future for these students is significant, which will have a significant impact on the entire country in the years to come,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

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The number of currently enrolled students who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, for next year has fallen 12.3% from a year ago, according to a separate National College Attainment Network report based on data from the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Since the FAFSA serves as the gateway to all federal funds, including loans, education, and scholarships, completion rates are another indicator of student intent to re-enroll, especially among low-income undergraduate students, according to Bill DeBaun, the National College Director of Data for Attainment Network.

“The most likely explanation here is that the economy is so hot, jobs are plentiful, and the opportunity cost students face can pull them from academic pathways into the workforce,” DeBaun said. .

For low-income students, the opportunity cost is even higher. “The prospect of turning down a well-paying job costs you more if your household income is lower,” he said.

However, “this data paints a troubling picture for arrested students,” DeBaun added. Historically, only 13% of college dropouts return within five years, according to a National Student Clearinghouse report, and even fewer graduates.

“I’m glad there are a lot of Americans finding work,” added Cody Hounanian, executive director of the Student Debt Crisis Center. But “if we lose sight of the value of education, we could find ourselves less prosperous in the future,” he said.

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