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College a Good Investment Even if Incomplete

Those who leave college without a degree also see a higher education bump in their earnings potential.

| BY Donald Liebenson

Several studies have found that a college degree is a worthwhile investment for career advancement. How worthwhile? A new Hamilton Project further finds that starting college is worth if even for students who fail to complete a degree.

More education corresponds to better and more varied employment opportunities, the report states, citing April 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that find that the unemployment rate for workers ages 25 and up without a high school diploma was 11.4 percent, while the unemployment rate for college graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 3.6 percent.

The employment rate for those at least 25 years-old and without a high school diploma was just 39.9 percent, while those who have earned a bachelor’s degree enjoyed a 73.2 percent employment rate.

Education, the report concludes, has “a substantial effect” on one’s earnings potential, with those with a bachelor’s degree earning a premium of roughly $30,000 each year relative to those with just a high school diploma.

And what of those who do not complete a two or four-year program? Those who leave college without a degree also see a higher education bump in their earnings potential. On average, these individuals made about $8,000 per year more than those who only completed high school. Over a lifetime, the report figures, this results in more than $100,000 in earnings.

A 2011 Hamilton Project study determined that the benefits of a four-year college degree were equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2 percent annually. The new study finds that, on average, attending some college, but not receiving a degree also has a higher return than all other conventional investments.

The annual rate of return of an investment in some college was 9.1 percent, more than 3 percentage points higher than the average stock market returns and 7 percentage points higher than the returns from investing in Treasury bonds.

Which is not to suggest, the study states that dropping out of college is a better option compared to completing a degree. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree annually make about $32,000 more than individuals with only some college. The downside risk of trying for a college degree but not making it all the way to a degree is not that bad, and could still be worth the investment of time and tuition,” the study concludes.



About the Author


Donald Liebenson

dliebenson@millionairecorner.com

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.