Should I Go Back to College?

 Millions of adult students successfully return to college to obtain a degree. However, they often have numerous responsibilities to consider when making the decision. These responsibilities can include marriage, children, work, community obligations, or care of elderly parents. The time and commitment needed to complete a degree program and balance these responsibilities can be a challenge.

Adults can also be concerned about fitting in with the younger, “traditional” students, or that they may be “too old.” However, so many adults are returning to college that they are no longer being considered “non-traditional” students. Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that adult students are the fastest growing educational demographic, and these numbers are steadily increasing. In 1970, 28 percent of all college students were 25 years of age or older. In 1998 the number of adult learners had increased to 41 percent. The number of students age 35 and older in degree-granting institutions has soared from about 823,000 in 1970 to an estimated 2.9 million in 2001 — doubling from 9.6% of total students to 19.2%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The Institute for Higher Education Policy reports that students aged 40 and older increased by 235 percent from 1970 to 1993. (Life After Forty: A New Portrait of Today’s – and Tomorrow’s – Postsecondary Students.) The Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) reports that students who are over 25 make up 47 percent of the new and returning student population on many of today’s college campuses.

With increased longevity and an unstable economic future, more adults 55 to 79 are determining what they want to do in the upcoming years. The American Council on Education report, Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education, shows more older adults are starting to return to college, pursue new career directions, start new businesses, and realize lifelong dreams. (For more inspiring information on these trends, please see our Special Reports section.)

The good news is, going back to college has never been easier. Many colleges and universities offer re-entry student services and campus childcare centers, and flexible course scheduling with classes one night per week, on the weekends, or in accelerated format. Students can now complete their degree program online on the Internet or through computer multi-media, broadcast television or correspondence courses. Statistics from the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) show nearly four million students taking college courses through distance education. (For more information, see Online Education Gets Accolades, How Do Employers View Online Degrees, Tackling Online Degree Programs, and Should You Get Your Degree Through Distance Learning, which includes tips on how to choose a distance learning program.)

 Is it necessary to return to college for additonal training and education?  What’s your take?

2 thoughts on “Should I Go Back to College?

  1. Returning to college is a great opportunity for adults; especially with online opportunities and night classes, such as, the adult edge program. Most adults have families, work, and other obligations that make it hard to attend a traditional college setting. However, the opportunities of online and at night give adults the chance to farther their education, experience, and knowlegde needed in today’s work force.
    I am a current graduate student returning to finish what I started online in 2007. My main goal is to finish because the competition in the work force is very competitive in the government and higher learning can help one land a more rewarding and responsible job. Returning to college is key for many reasons, such as, better job security, personal satisfaction, specialization, and the skills needed to enchance one’s aptitude of knowledge, whether its for a 2-year, 4-year, or graduate degree. It’s never too late in life for one to learn and learning usually ends in success at least from my perspective.

    • Well said, Stan. Returning to school is certainly a sacrifice, but statistic after statistic reinforces that such a decision usually results in both the job security you mentioned as well as a great deal of personal satisfaction.

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