College graduates may have $27,000 worth of student loans to worry about, but at least they have this small source of comfort: bigger paychecks for life.
But what about college dropouts? They're another story: Is it worth spending thousands of dollars on a degree you never actually finish?
In fact, new research shows that even getting half a degree may be better than none.
Students who don't finish their degrees still earn up to $8,000 more per year than those with just a high school diploma, according to a report by Washington, D.C.-based think tank, The Hamilton Project.
That adds an additional $100,000 worth of income over their lifetime –– for a total 9.1% return on investment. To put this in perspective, that's three points higher than the average annual stock market return and seven points higher than returns on U.S. Treasury bonds.
Not surprisingly, ROI only gets higher the farther students advance in school.
Bachelor’s degree-holders earn about $30,000 more per year than high school graduates ( $500,000 over a lifetime) and $32,000 more than individuals with only some college.
By The Hamilton Project's estimates, that adds up to a 15% annual return on investment.
To be fair, subject matter plays a big role in college ROI, whether you graduate or not.
Studying art history for a year and then dropping out likely won't net the same lucrative job prospects as, say, advertising. And where you wind up working plays a huge role in determining whether you'll be able to pay down any debt incurred along the way.
According to Bankrate.com, advertising degree-holders need just six years to pay back their student loan debt, compared to teachers and librarians, who typically need more than 20 years.
If you’re deciding whether to enroll in a higher education program, keep your future ROI in mind.
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