Why Some Students Are Skipping College

A new crop of Americans simply doesn’t want to take on debt.By Jodie Adams Kirshner

Illustration showing two possibilities: a college graduation with a price tag of 60K, or work in a big warehouse.
Mark Harris; Getty


Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET on January 9, 2023

Legal challenges now stand in the way of President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel thousands of dollars in education loans for millions of Americans. As a professor focused on debt and inequality, I’m rooting for the plan to succeed. But I’m also concerned that it does nothing to address the problems in higher education that are scaring off a new generation of potential students.

Over the past three and a half years, I have been talking with more than 30 low-income students and their families from across the country about their attitudes toward student debt and their paths after high school. Contrary to my expectations, many told me they were enrolling in inexpensive two-year colleges or eschewing higher education entirely.