By Kelly Senter:

College is expensive; nothing new there. University of Wisconsin–Stout costs nearly $9,000 a semester for tuition alone. But there is something even more expensive than staying in college: dropping out without a degree. Dropouts have the debt from college without the job security that a degree offers.

“Among Americans aged 25 to 34—the youngest group that would have completed college under a traditional schedule—the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 4.1 percent, versus 11 percent for those with only a high school diploma and 9.8 percent for those who began college but didn’t finish,” quotes the Wall Street Journal.

It is also well known that degree-wielding employees earn more than their coworkers that only have a GED. They make quite a bit more too, according to The Wall Street Journal: 37 percent more.

The government wants more people to graduate too. More graduates equal higher income. Higher income leads to more taxes. According to American Institute for Research, dropouts in 2008 constituted “$3.8 billion in lost income, $566 million in lost federal income taxes and $164 million in lost state income taxes.” Getting to pay higher taxes may not promote anyone to finish college, but earning money and staying out of debt might!

“Students who drop out of college are four times as likely to default on their federal student loans than students who earn degrees,” said The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The idea of a “full time student” doesn’t work as well as it used to. Most have part-time or full-time jobs as well as schoolwork to handle. Some universities are stepping up to make it easier for the part time working student to earn their degree.

University of New York uses block scheduling along with other strategies to help out their student body. Robert Mendenhall, president of Western Governors University, uses a “competency-based” approach, in which students may test out of some classes and still use them to earn credit towards their degree.

Our own UW–Stout offers distance education opportunities as well as a myriad of online courses to assist students with busy schedules. These kinds of changes at colleges and universities are allowing more and more people to return to college and finish degrees they have started.

The advantages of completing a degree are known, but sometimes it simply isn’t feasible. Colleges are trying to help students out by tweaking scheduling policies and offering off-campus solutions. With 37 percent higher income among college graduates compared to people without a degree, staying in school is worth it.

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