The U.S. has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world, reports Reuters. Many U.S. high school graduates start college, but only 46 percent complete a degree, according to the OECD.  By contrast, 89 percent of Japanese who start college earn a credential.

Dropouts blame poor academic preparation, “inability to cope with the competing demands of study, family and jobs” and high college costs, according to  a Harvard report.

. . . “For many young adults, the ultimate bottom line is whether the degree or credential they earn will help them secure a job,” according to a 2011 Pew Research Center report, “Is College Worth It?”

. . . Financial barriers play a key role in students’ decisions to drop out of college, the Pew study finds. Among adults age 18-34 who lack a bachelor’s degree, two-thirds halted their education to support a family, 57 percent preferred to work and make money; and 48 percent simply couldn’t afford college.

Students can earn a college degree at a reasonable cost, if they complete their first years at a community college, says Eleanor Blayney with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.