Dropping out: Former students discuss why they left

by Jennifer Ingram

Peter Thiel, one of the wealthiest and best-educated American entrepreneurs, is not convinced that college is worth the cost. According to his comments on BBC News, student loans are now reaching almost a trillion dollars, and only half of the recent U.S. college graduates find themselves in full-time jobs after receiving a diploma.

“Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook didn’t complete Harvard. Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard,” Thiel told BBC News. “When you do something entrepreneurial, the credentials are not what really matters. What matters is having the right idea at the right time [at] the right place.”

Josiah Brown, former Whitworth student, found that leaving Whitworth to pursue something entirely different than what he had been studying was a worthwhile decision.

“When I first applied to Whitworth, I wanted to study Theology and become a youth pastor,” Brown said. “The fall of what would have been my senior year, I got certified as an EMT, and decided to move to Portland to become a paramedic. Completely opposite of what I thought I’d be doing, but absolutely the best decision of my life.”

Brown studied at Whitworth for two years before taking some time off to work in Denver. There, he completed a semester of urban studies before returning to Whitworth. A year later, Brown dropped out of Whitworth and spent eight months in Africa. He said he had no intention of returning to finish earning his bachelor’s degree.

“I had a draw to be doing more action and less studying,” Brown said. “I paused my education at Whitworth because I felt like I needed some more real world experience.”

The National Center for Education Statistics shows that only 28 percent of full-time students and only five percent of part-time students will finish their college studies after taking some time off.

Cody Thompson, former Whitworth student, dropped out of school as well. Thompson attended Whitworth for three semesters before deciding to leave the school. For Thompson, monetary issues were a big factor for leaving.

“I changed what I wanted to do every three months and spent $80,000 not knowing what I wanted to study,” Thompson said. “Originally I wanted to be a teacher, then I changed my major to art, and then theology before finally deciding to just leave.”

According to a survey done by the Apollo Research Institute, more than two-thirds of college students indicated that expenses were a big contributor to dropping out. In 2011, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that the average debt of those trying to obtain a B.A. was $23,000.

“I am paying for school all on my own,” Thompson said. “I left when I found out that I could study way cheaper elsewhere. Now I spend about an eighth of what I would have spent at Whitworth.”

Thompson said he misses Whitworth’s environment and community the most. While he is glad to not be in as much debt, he said it was worth coming to Whitworth at least for a little while.

According to the Apollo Research survey, the second highest reported reason students leave college is the anxiety over missing friends or family. In addition, some students have difficulty managing the stress that comes with classes, or develop resentment over doing coursework instead of something more interesting.

Megan Leary transferred from Whitworth to the University of San Diego in 2009.

“I was very homesick and missed my family too much,” Leary said. “I was born and raised in Southern California, and I was too far away from my family and friends.”

Leary said she originally wanted to attend Whitworth because of its reputation of being a small, private university with a successful business program. However, she soon discovered that Spokane was substantially different from where she grew up, and she decided to return to her home state. Leary will be graduating this spring from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a supply chain minor.

“I know I made the right decision leaving Whitworth, but I also do not regret going to Whitworth for my freshman year,” Leary said. “I met some amazing friends and made so many memories that will last a lifetime.”

Although there are students who transfer from Whitworth, there are also many who choose to transfer to Whitworth.

Michelle Reardon transferred to Whitworth in 2010 as an academic sophomore. After spending a year studying at Walla Walla University, Reardon realized that she wasn’t truly content with the institution’s policies and had the desire to leave.

“I think all too often parents are responsible directly or indirectly for the institution their child attends. Not in my family,” Reardon said. “It was a personal decision. My parents have always acted with unconditional love, encouragement and support for whatever decisions or paths I choose.”

After leaving Walla Walla, Reardon chose to attend Whitworth based on how she viewed the integrity and reputation of Whitworth’s School of Global Commerce and Management.

“I had a family history and connection to Whitworth,” Reardon said. “My grandparents met and married because of this school, my older sister attended all four years here as well as several other family members. Despite the strong family ties, what really impressed me was their business program.”

Reardon will graduate this spring with a degree in business administration.

Reardon said that she would have regretted it had she not transferred to Whitworth after leaving Walla Walla University.

“The relationships I have made and the lessons I have learned here at Whitworth are priceless and worth more than I could ever have imagined,” Reardon said. “Even though this ride hasn’t been without its bumps, I have grown, found love and most importantly, I have found myself. And that’s more meaningful than any degree in my opinion.”

Contact Jennifer Ingram at jingram13@my.whitworth.edu.

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