New KSU Study Highlights Benefits to Graduates and Institutions when Comebackers Complete their Education

Returning to college to earn a bachelor’s degree leads to both an immediate increase in annual income after graduation and an increase in annual income growth each year after graduation, according to a Kansas State University economics researcher.

Amanda Gaulke, assistant professor of economics in the College of Arts and Sciences, found that students who return to college and finish a bachelor’s degree earn on average $4,294 more immediately after graduation and experience an extra income growth of $1,121 per year, on average.

While most education-focused economic literature tracks traditional students who graduate from high school, enroll in college, earn a degree, and start a career on an uninterrupted pathway, Gaulke’s work set out to determine if stopped out students who return and graduate improve their economic outcomes compared to those who never return or return but don’t complete.

At a time when shifting trends question the value of a college education, but also promote degree completion as a “win-win” situation, data like Gaulke’s is critical for under-credentialed adults deciding whether or not a return to school is worth the investment. “When thinking in terms of weighing costs and benefits, it is import for those people to know that there are real economic benefits of going back and completing a bachelor’s degree,” said Gaulke.

The study also highlights the fact that comebackers who return and graduate with a degree are significantly more likely to be employed, work more weeks, and work more full-time weeks per quarter.

Higher education institutions can also benefit from post-traditional students who return to school. Colleges and universities that evaluate existing policies and programs and develop new approaches with an adult learner perspective can improve their enrollment numbers and promote economic and social mobility for this often overlooked and underserved student population.

ProjectAttain! exists to close California’s talent deficit by boosting adult credentialing and educational attainment, particularly for minority and under-invested populations. We work closely with comebackers and regional institutions to curate, create, and elevate adult learner strategies and solutions.

Click here to reimagine returning to school to finish a degree or make an appointment with a navigator to explore your options.

(Photo Credit: Photo by Visual Stories || Micheile on Unsplash)