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See Inside August/September 2007

Why We Quit

In the U.S., more students drop out of college than graduate--yet six out of every 10 jobs require a postsecondary education. What causes so many students to squander their future?

In her 20s, Diana dreamed of becoming a scientific illustrator. She had not yet attended college, so she was thrilled when she received an acceptance letter from an undergraduate graphic arts program in New York City. But her excitement gave way to anxiety during the first days and weeks at her new school. Fretting about her performance, Diana sought out her professors for comfort and advice. She found them aloof and difficult to contact, however, because none of them posted office hours. When Diana reached out to the chair of the art department, he either was unavailable or expressed little interest in her concerns.

Diana's academic fears were unfounded--her first semester grades turned out to be quite good. But lacking contact and support from her teachers, Diana felt lonely, dejected and lost in the crowd. She was so disillusioned, in fact, that she abruptly dropped out of college--and never went back. Now 38, Diana teaches English as a Second Language part-time for an international language school. Her pay is $10 per hour, and she has no opportunity for advancement.

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