Adult students looking to start, or re-start, college are an optimistic bunch. Most are trying to improve their job and career prospects. They are ambitious, determined and a little bit nervous. They know that people with a bachelor’s degree earn 56% more than those with a high school degree over a lifetime. However, what about those that start but don’t finish?
After all, only 58% of students that start college receive a degree within 6 years. That means that 42% of those who start don’t finish. Because college isn’t cheap, almost half of all students spend their savings and incur debt for college without receiving the payoff they expect.
When a Student Defaults on Debt
Recent research shows that students that borrow –even a small amount – and don’t graduate are the most likely to default on their student loans. Unfortunately, defaulting on student debt is much worse than defaulting on regular debt. Here’s what happens when a student defaults on debt:
- Because student loans are backed by the government, they are very hard to get rid of. Usually, student loans survive even personal bankruptcy filings.
- The interest continues to accrue and your account will be turned over to a collection agency by the government. The collection costs will also be added to the loan.
- Tax refunds and wages can be garnished
- Your credit score is damaged and you become ineligible for more lenient student debt repayment programs.
Unfortunately, many students start college with the best of intentions only to struggle under the combined burden of school, family, work, health and the myriad of other obstacles that can derail the non-traditional student. To better understand the decision to start or restart college, consider the mindset of the person who decides to join a health club to get in shape. Some health club members achieve their goals. Of those that don’t, most simply couldn’t stick with it. This doesn’t mean they won’t succeed in the future, just not now.
Benefits of Starting College Outside of College
So, what can you do? For the non-traditional student – any student who didn’t start college right out of high school, attends online or part-time, works or has family obligations –the best solution is to start college outside of college. Today, there are many ways to earn college credit online that cost much less than a college and require little or no up-front payment.
Examples include StraighterLine, MOOCs and more. Further, if a student is successful in some of these programs, they can earn tuition discounts upon actual enrollment. By starting college outside of college a student can save money AND dramatically reduce the financial risk of starting college.
Will Your Good Intentions Lead to Good Results?
Again, consider the person joining a health club. The best time to join a health club is when there is an introductory offer for a free or discounted membership. Such an offer lets customers find out for themselves whether their good intentions will lead to good results without significant financial risk. Put another way, would you start at a health club if you had to pay the entire year’s membership up front? If not, then why commit to full tuition without understanding your level of commitment?
Non-traditional students that start college before college reduce their risk and cost of a college degree.