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Not finishing uni has advantages: study

‘Finish what you start’ is a widely revered tenet of neoliberal psychology, yet a new study by La Trobe University flips it on its side.

Researchers at the university’s Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research have found that those who complete even part of a degree are financially better off than those who never attempt one.

The median Australian who started a bachelor course yet didn’t complete it earns $7500 more than their peer who never entered a university campus, Michael Luckman and Andrew Harvey, drawing on ABS statistics, found.

They further found that non-completers’ yearly income was only 9 per cent lower than that of completers.

They say that their findings demonstrate that the stigma around university ‘drop outs’ – whose rates have remained steady over decades – should be erased. “While it remains financially beneficial to complete a Bachelor degree, the perceived losses incurred by taxpayers from non-completion do not appear to be as severe as may have been expected,” Luckman said.

Around one million Australians have only partially completed a bachelor’s degree, yet, per Luckman and Harvey’s previous research, roughly half return to complete their degrees within eight years.

“Our analysis shows the student life cycle is more complex than is generally assumed,” they said. “Withdrawal is more often associated with personal factors…so…some level of discontinuation is inevitable.

“Given changes to the way many people now experience higher education, governments and higher education institutions need a greater understanding of non-linear pathways to university as well as the interim stages between enrolments. They also need to address unhelpful language and stigmas around those that leave higher education.”

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