For Older Graduates, Going to College Still Pays

A new Gallup poll finds that waiting to earn a degree until age 25 or older does not hamper a graduate's subsequent income.

learn more about Laura Entis

By Laura Entis • Dec 12, 2014 Originally published Dec 12, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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?

Laura Entis
Laura Entis is a reporter for Fortune.com's Venture section.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This Co-Founder Was Kicked Out of Retailers for Pitching a 'Taboo' Beauty Product. Now, Her Multi-Million-Dollar Company Sells It for More Than $20 an Ounce.
Have You Ever Obsessed Over 'What If'? According to Scientists, You Don't Actually Know What Would Have Fixed Everything.
Most People Don't Know These 2 Things Are Resume Red Flags. A Career Expert Reveals How to Work Around Them.
Starting a Business

5 Ways to Expand Your Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business

The new book, Start Your Own Pet Business, details easy ways to add new revenue streams to your biz.

Thought Leaders

5 Small Daily Habits Self-Made Millionaires Use to Grow Their Wealth

We've all seen what self-made millionaires look like on TV, but it's a lot more subtle than that. Brian Tracy researched what small daily habits these successful entrepreneurs adopted on their journey from rags to riches.

Business News

Massive Fire At Top Egg Farm Leaves Estimated 100,000 Hens Dead. What Does This Mean For Egg Prices?

Hillandale Farms in Bozrah, Connecticut went up in flames on Saturday in an incident that is still under investigation.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Business News

Survey: A Majority of Americans Are Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Sixty-four percent of U.S. consumers live paycheck to paycheck — even those who earn more than $100,000 a year.