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Is College Worth the Effort Even if You Drop Out?


Ideally, you’d finish your education. You’d graduate without debt. You’d land the job of your dreams. But life has a way of throwing us for a loop. Maybe you didn’t have time to complete those degree requirements. Maybe an exciting job opportunity popped up in the middle of your academic career. You know what? That’s totally OK. A new study says there’s no such thing as a wasted education, whether or not you got the sheepskin to prove it.

Conventional (and still completely reliable) logic dictates you invest in college to get a higher return on your paycheck over the span of a lifetime. College grads earn on average about $500,000 more than their diploma-less peers over the course of their life (or $32,000 more a year).

That’s a stronger return on investment than the stock market. And the housing market.

So yeah, college is worth the money in most cases. (You can make a smarter decision about how much cash it’s actually worth by consulting our ROI reports here).

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The novel caveat to that, however, is that college dropouts tend to earn more than their non-secondary-educated counterparts, too. A lot more that high school grads, but a lot less than college grads (Kanye West being one of many exceptions to that stat).

The ever-enlightening Brookings Institute found that college drop-outs, on average, earned $100,000 more in a lifetime (or $8,000 more a year) compared to those who graduated high school without even pursuing college. 

“That’s a better investment return on average than stocks and bonds – though of course much lower than the return on college for those who finish,” Huffington Post notes.

Despite the crippling cost of some schools’ tuition, college remains one of the better returns on investment, the study maintains.

“Although some people currently question whether the cost of college is worth the investment, the evidence suggests that rate of return is much higher than many alternative investments, even for students that don’t ultimately finish a degree,” says the report.

So if you have the opportunity of time and the monetary resources to back it up, finish up as much as you can. There’s no such thing as a wasted education.

Tell Us What You Think

Has an unfinished degree proven worth the time and money to you?? Share your story on our Twitter page or in the comments section below.

More from PayScale 

Behind the Scenes of the 2013 College ROI Report Methodology

The Top Schools for College ROI by Region

5 Career Tips From Powerful Women in Business

(Photo Credit: Nazareth College/Flickr)

Jennifer Wadsworth
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