Investing in an education that you don’t finish is basically acquiring debt for no reason, i.e. you might as well have bought ridiculously expensive shoes, as far as your finances are concerned. (For the record, we still think education is a better investment than shoes.) According to a study by the Urban Institute, half of students who expected to get BA degrees but failed to do so average nearly $15,000 in student debt. Yikes! Owing $15k with nothing to show for it? No, thanks. Learn from this statistic: don’t take on debt unless you’re sure it will pay off in the future! There are several warning signs to see if you’re at-risk of failing to finish your education. Let's get it out of the way: we're not discouraging anyone from getting an education, as we know that nothing is absolute and many students achieve while odds are against them. However, there’s nothing wrong with considering the reality of a situation. In fact, it's smart to do so. So, before you borrow, here are some factors increasing your likelihood of dropping out to consider: • You’re not well-prepared to take on courses and have trouble keeping up in class. If you’re having issues keeping up from the start, you’re more likely to flunk out or get frustrated and drop out. Maybe you should save money by enrolling in community college and transfer to a four-year university when you’re better equipped to handle the pressure. Attending community college is a helpful and affordable solution for those struggling with course loads. • You’re taking a break between high school and college, but borrowing now. What on earth are you thinking? You’re not going to spend that money on school and you know it. Don’t borrow unless it’s going directly to your education. Otherwise, it definitely won’t pay off to waste it on whatever you’re doing – no matter how great the cause – during your off year. • You’re too challenged by finances – even with loans. If you’re stretched too far from the start, you’re more likely to give up on the situation and drop out but not before you acquire far too much debt! Keep in mind that debt only becomes more overwhelming, so if you can’t handle it from the start, don’t take it on in the first place. Save a little and enroll when you can handle the payments – it will likely increase your success rate. • You’re enrolled part-time, taking a course here and there. No matter how great you think you are at multi-tasking, it’s difficult to focus when you’ve got too much going on. Taking a course “here and there” shows that college isn't your current priority – no matter how badly you’d like it to be. Perhaps it can’t be your priority because you have other responsibilities – like family, finances, etc. The point is you shouldn't take on student loans until you’re 100 percent committed to being a student. • You’re working full-time and taking classes when able. People successfully do it – but it’s not easy. Earning your degree while having a full-time job will likely take awhile – much longer than usual. Take this into account when you borrow so you can be prepared to owe for a long time without it paying off. Do you agree with these "at-risk" factors? Why or why not?