The 4 Steps to Save Money and Complete College

The 4 Steps to Save Money and Complete College When Your Life and Credits Have Moved All Over the Place

By Beth Dumbauld

If you are like the majority of people who graduate from high school in the U.S., you probably went to college after graduating. In fact, in the U.S., almost 70% of high school graduates go to college within two years of graduating.1 Unfortunately, starting college oftentimes doesn’t translate into a graduation years down the road. Perhaps this is your story. If it is, you’re not alone.

According to a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “only about 40% of Americans have obtained either an associate or bachelor’s degree by their mid-twenties. Roughly another 10% have earned a certificate.”2 Furthermore, “only 56% of those enrolling in a 4-year college earn a bachelor’s degree after six years, and less than 30% of those who enroll in a community college earn their associate degree in 3 years.”3

Given these statistics, you may ask yourself why bother going to college in the first place? After all, if you don’t graduate, you could wind up with school loan debt, college credits that exist in a state of limbo, and no access to the kinds of career and salary gains that earning a degree provides.

The case for going back to college however, whether through online college classes or on-campus institutions, is strong. After all, a typical bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn about 66% more during a 40-year working life than the typical high school graduate.4

Median Annual Earnings by Degree Type  (Young Adults Ages 25-34), 20105

  • High School: $29,000
  • Associate degree: $37,000
  • Bachelor’s degree: $45,000

Clearly, a college degree provides an economic advantage to a student over the course of his or her working life. If that matters to you, then you should stop wasting time by asking yourself whether or not you should go back to college. Investing in yourself through education is always a good idea. If you want to improve the trajectory of your career, you need to continue your education and earn a degree. The first step in doing so is by taking a hard look at yourself and addressing head-on the most pressing issues which might prevent you from graduating. Here’s where to begin:

1- Assess Where You and Your Credits Are Now

Earning college credits is a good thing; credit hoarding is not. Text books stacked next to your couch, old exams piled in boxes, parking passes for random colleges jammed in your junk drawer are the detritus of a college plan going awry. Unless you have taken advantage of low cost, high-quality college classes offered by online college course providers like StraighterLine, your earned college credits probably have come at a high price, even more so if you don’t have a credit transfer plan. Not only have you paid tuition for credits that are going nowhere; you have probably developed a self-defeating attitude towards your ability to ever recoup your losses and complete college.

Now is the time to shake it off and move forward. If you attended college after graduating high school, obtain the transcript records from that program. Continue to call, and get your transcripts from each additional college you ever attended, distance learning courses included, no matter how briefly. Even if you qualify for college credits for just one course you’ve taken in your past – those credits already earned can make a difference in terms of the overall cost and time it will take to earn your degree going forward.


1 Harvard Graduate School of Education, Pathways to Prosperity, 2/2011, p.6
http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news_events/features/2011/Pathways_to_Prosperity_Feb2011.pdf

2 IBID

3 IBID

4 The College Board, Lifetime Earnings
http://trends.collegeboard.org/education_pays/report_findings/indicator/Lifetime_Earnings

5 National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education: Annual Earnings of Young Adults, 2012, p1.
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_er2.asp