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Earning a college degree sets people apart from others competing for positions in the job market. But many who start off with the goal of earning a degree end up not graduating – at least, the first time around.

Degree completion programs aimed at working adults help to close the gap between those who started earning a degree and those who finish. Online degree programs have made completing a degree even easier by giving students flexibility in scheduling school work around busy professional and personal lives.

Statistics show that if you started a degree program and did not finish, you are not alone.

Less Than Half Graduate

In a report on graduation statistics, the Washington Post found that 40% of those who enroll for the first time at a four-year college or university graduate within four years. When they added in those who do not complete a degree at a community college, they found that more than half of all students who start college for the first time drop out within six years.

However, the graduation rate at private, nonprofit schools ranked as the highest at 66% within six years of entering college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Many factors can play a role in dropping out. For some, it’s an issue of needing to work full-time and not having time to complete their degree. Other people experience life changes such as marriage, starting a family or moving that can cause them to temporarily put their education on hold.

In the 2015-2016 school year alone, U.S. News & World Report said that about 2.5 million students dropped out of college.

The Benefits of Completing a Degree

Entering college for a second time can make all the difference in a person’s career. Having spent time in the workforce, many have discovered that earning a college degree can create a pathway to the best jobs in their field.

These are some of the benefits to completing a degree.

Better Pay

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $1,173 a week. Those with a two-year degree earn $836, while those with only a high school diploma earn $712.

Better Chance for Employment

The BLS also reports lower unemployment rates for those with a four-year degree. The percentage of those unemployed by educational attainment are:

• High school diploma – 4.6%
• Associate Degree – 3.4%
• Bachelor’s Degree – 2.5%

Personal Satisfaction

No one appreciates how difficult it is to earn a college degree more than those who have left school and then returned. It’s a major goal to earn a degree and something that is life-changing. It also requires overcoming obstacles, something that leads to deep personal satisfaction.

Great Role Model

Given how a college degree an improve your income and your career opportunities, it’s little wonder that parents want to see their kids attend college. One of the best ways to encourage that is to complete college yourself, showing them your dedication to earning a degree.

There are always first-generation college graduates in every family – make it be you, and your kids are more likely to follow. Many studies have shown that kids are more likely to attend college if their parents do, including this one from the National Center for Educational Statistics.

These are some of the reasons why it’s worthwhile to enter a degree completion program. With online programs designed for working adults, it’s now more convenient than ever to return to school. And the rewards can make the time spent getting an education worthwhile.