Studies Show Even a Partial College Education Pays Off

A new study suggests that some college education is better than no college education at all. So even if you're concerned you won't finish college, if you're interested in a college degree, are smart enough, and have the ambition, it just might be worth giving college a try. Adam Looney a senior fellow in Economic Studies and the policy director at the Washington, D.C. based think tank Hamilton Project in a recent report he authored points out that the evidence suggests many people never apply to college for fear they'll never finish – a fear often blow out of proportion. While completing a degree is always more advantageous, students who complete only some college have lifetime earnings of roughly $100,000 more than those with only a high school education.

Justin Pope of the Associated Press reports that individuals who complete their college degree get a better return on investment than those that receive a partial college education, but those with a partial college education on average still receive a better return on investment for the money spent on their education than if they were to have taken the money and invested it in stocks or bonds. Given that over half of colleges students take out loans to finance their education, the fact that completing even some college yields an attractive return is great news for anyone contemplating college.

In a report published by the Education Sector, as of 2009 nearly a third of all college students who borrowed money to pay for college never completed their degree. Of those roughly 17% defaulted on their student loans - compared to a much lower default rate of 4% for college students who completed their degree. The same report also suggests that those who finish a bachelor's degree make about $30,000 a year more than those who complete only a partial degree.

Even though the benefits are not as great for students who complete only some college as compared to those who complete their degree, based the study produced by the Hamilton Project, completing even some college still makes financial sense. Another study showed that students that complete some college earn on average $8,000 a year more than those who only earn a high school diploma. The same report also indicated that student who complete a partial degree had a national unemployment rate of 6.5%, 1 point lower than that nation average of 7.6% for all adults over the age of 25.

Everyone knows that it pays to get a college education. But even incremental increases in college education appear to payoff. According to the Hamilton Project report the return on investment for a partial college education is just over 9%, not as attractive as the 15% return on investment associated with earning a bachelor's degree, but still a greater return than offered by most traditional investments.

So if you're even considering going to college, do it. It makes sense – even if you end up dropping out at some point. If you're currently in college and thinking about dropping out, finish your degree – you'll be glad you did.

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