College Graduates

For Older Graduates, Going to College Still Pays

For Older Graduates, Going to College Still Pays
Image credit: WCN 24/7 | Flickr

Not everyone makes it to college at 18. There are a host of factors that understandably keep high school seniors from continuing on with their education, most notably rising tuition costs. And that’s troubling, because despite college's increasingly high price tag, obtaining a degree still pays in the long run.

Fortunately, recent research finds that it's never too late to go back to school. Graduating from college -- at any age -- remains a good investment. Nontraditional graduates, the term for those who graduate at the age 25 or older, end up earning incomes equal to that of their younger classmates, a new Gallup poll finds.

The poll looked at the incomes of nearly 4,000 nontraditional college graduates and about 7,500 traditional college graduates (all of whom earned their degree between 1990 and 2014) and found that as long as nontraditional graduates and traditional graduates obtained their degree at approximately the same time, there was no significant difference in their earnings.

Related: Troubling Trend: Fewer High School Grads Are Choosing College

Of course, because younger graduates obtain a college degree sooner in their careers, they will presumably out-perform their older classmates in lifetime earnings. But if nontraditional graduates had not returned to college at all, they would likely make far less. The data is encouraging in that it indicates employers are not punishing adults for waiting to get a degree. "Overall, these data suggest that individuals who graduate college around the same time but at different ages are currently faring equally well in terms of personal income," Gallup writes.

Interestingly, the percentage of nontraditional graduates has significantly increased in the past few decades, doubling from 16 percent in the 1970s to 32 percent for 2000 to 2014, according to Gallup.

Related: Which Colleges and Majors Yield the Most Lucrative Careers?