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Jul 31, 2014 05:00 AM EDT

Over 31 Million American Students Constitute College Dropouts, Report

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Nearly 31 million students in the United States joined college and left without a degree, over the last 20 years, according to a report issued by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in Herndon, Va.

These students, who did enrol in to colleges but quit halfway, are sometimes referred to as "some college, no degree."

Researchers believe that the finding can help policymakers and educators who are aiming to increase college completion rates in states like Louisiana, where just 38.8 percent of students at public four-year colleges graduate within six years, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"We don't have any evidence that anything is getting worse in the United States," said Andreas Schleicher, head of the Indicators and Analysis Division of the OECD in Paris. "It is just that there is a great deal of dynamism all over the world, and many countries are catching up," Washington Post reports. 

For the report, the researchers analysed enrolment and degree records from the National Student Clearinghouse and found that nearly one-third of the "some college, no degree" population enrolled for a single semester at only one institution.

Students who were associated with at least two semester tenure at a college were categorised as a "non-traditional patterns," meaning, they either enrolled part time or at older ages.

The researchers also created a third and an important category called "potential completers". Students who completed two years of college education fall into this category. Around 4 million or 12 percent of the 31 million belonged to this potential graduate group.

The report also found that college graduates and potential graduates belonged to the same age groups. However, the potential graduates abandoned more often than graduates.

Doug Shapiro, an executive research director at the National Student Clearinghouse and one of the authors of the report, said that colleges should encourage adult learners to finish their education instead of solely focusing on high school students.

Referring to Obama's ambitious 60 percent goal, Shapiro said, "It's widely recognized that we can't reach that goal by just focusing on traditional aged kids coming out of high school," Nola reports.

The Obama administration aims to increase the number of adult degree-holders to 60 percent by 2020.The United States of America, which held the title of having the highest percentage of adults with college degrees in the world, has recently fallen to 16th.

"Every capable, hard-working, and responsible student should be able to afford to go to college. That's not a Democratic dream or a Republican one. It's the American Dream," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

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