When Can You Drop Out of School in Colorado?

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
Colorado students may legally drop out once they turn 17. Learn about alternative schooling and earning a GED in the state.

Under Colorado’s compulsory education law, children from ages 6 through 16 must attend public or private school, be homeschooled, or study in an online school. Below is a summary of the state’s requirements for staying in school, what happens when students stop attending class before they’re old enough to drop out legally, and how to get high school equivalency diplomas.

Colorado’s Legal Dropout Age

Students in Colorado may drop out of school as soon as they turn 17. Unlike some other states with legal dropout ages below 18, Colorado doesn’t make 17-year-olds get their parents’ permission before leaving school. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-33-104(1)(a) (2019).)

Exceptions for Attendance Requirements

Colorado’s compulsory education law includes some exceptions, including for students who:

  • are in a supervised work-study program
  • have a school release permit under the Colorado Youth Employment Opportunity Act and are attending classes part time, or
  • have excused absences or out of school for longer periods because of physical, mental, or emotional disabilities

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-33-104(2) (2019).)

Colorado’s Truancy Policies

Even if you’re old enough to withdraw from school, dropping out can lead to a range of long-term financial costs. But if you’re younger than 17 and refuse to go to school, you could face more immediate consequences. Colorado generally leaves the details of truancy policies up to local school districts. State law establishes a preference for trying to help truants and their parents rather than punishing them. Still, as a last resort, school districts may start proceedings in juvenile court to force recalcitrant truants to cooperate. (Colo. Rev. Stat. 22-33-108 (2019).)

Colorado High School Equivalency Diploma

Dropouts can get a Colorado High School Equivalency Diploma by taking and passing the GED test. Unlike most other states, Colorado doesn’t limit the test to state residents. Generally, you must be 17 to take the GED, but 16-year-olds may be eligible if they meet the requirements for a high school equivalency age waiver.

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