There are many reasons for going back to school. A recent article from Eduventures* states that 40% of adult students are enrolled in school to advance their careers. There is another 30% who want to finish what they started some time ago. Those searching for a different career field make up 20% of the adult learners, and another 10% are lifelong learners interested in taking course work of interest to them.
Behind those reasons for going back to school is an individual story that each adult learner can tell. At Belhaven, we value those individual stories, and we are pleased to work with each student to accomplish his/her personal goals. Often the road to completing what was started is strewn with obstacles that at times seem impossible to overcome.
I remember the student who lived in her car but faithfully came to class. She graduated two years ago and is going strong in a new career. What a joy is was to work with her during her time at Belhaven. There was the military student who was called up to active duty. He did not let that stop his progress toward his goal of an MBA and he switched his studies to our online program. There are also very happy stories. We had two students who met and married while attending classes at Belhaven.
Belhaven is a special haven for adult students seeking to achieve an educational goal. Our faculty and staff are devoted to the success of each individual student. We recently conducted some focus groups with our students and found that they do feel valued as individuals and the one thing we heard loud and clear is that the Christian foundation of our curriculum is our crown jewel. Many told us how their spiritual lives have changed because of the Christian values expressed in every class.
Wherever you are in your journey and whatever has motivated you to pursue your education, we applaud you and stand with you all the way through graduation.
*Meet Today’s Adult Learners: A Guide to Segmentation and Storytelling www.eduventures.com
I was recently introduced to Psalm 107 – a Psalm of restoration and hope if there ever was one. In a nutshell, the psalm is divided into sections, each describing a sequence of (1) brokenness, (2) a calling out to God, and (3) deliverance by God. I was especially drawn to verses 23-32, partly because of what I feel is its application to working adults (and, therefore, our students), and partly because of what it teaches regarding suffering.
For all of our students, life happens while they are pursuing their degrees. For some of them, life happens with a vengeance – a child develops a terminal illness, a job is lost, a spouse leaves for “greener pastures” with little notice and no real explanation. I could go on and on. So, with that context, here’s Psalm 107: 23-32 (NLT):
Some traveled on the sea in ships,
and carried cargo over the vast waters.
24 They witnessed the acts of the LORD,
his amazing feats on the deep water.
25 He gave the order for a windstorm,
and it stirred up the waves of the sea.
26 They reached up to the sky,
then dropped into the depths.
The sailors’ strength left them because the danger was so great.
27 They swayed and staggered like a drunk,
and all their skill proved ineffective.
28 They cried out to the LORD in their distress;
he delivered them from their troubles.
29 He calmed the storm,
and the waves grew silent.
30 The sailors rejoiced because the waves grew quiet,
and he led them to the harbor they desired.
31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his loyal love,
and for the amazing things he has done for people!
An adult student is trying to make a better life for herself and her family by going back to school (carrying a cargo over the vast waters). As she makes her way through her coursework, she begins to see the goodness of God in her life (witness his amazing feats) as what she thought was not doable for her (returning to college) now seems doable. But then, things change. Severe trials enter her life. God gives the order for a windstorm and it blows incessantly (It’s interesting that God ordered the trials. Read How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D.A. Carson to begin to wade through that one). She mentions her need for prayer in class and to campus staff. She cries to the Lord in her trouble, and He delivers her from her distress. The noise of the storm quietens (or maybe God’s comforting voice becomes louder), things settle down a bit, and she realizes that, even though the skies may still be cloudy, God has brought her to her to a place of calm waters.
The beauty of the adult Christian higher education community is the privilege to walk with our students in their difficult times. It’s not that the whole process of returning to college one huge trial. As a former adult student, there is joy in the journey – much joy! But, life happens. And when it happens to a student who has added college to an already busy life, things can get really complicated. As education professionals and followers of Christ, it’s our calling to steady our students when they “sway and stagger” and rejoice with them when they reach “the harbor they desired.”