There was a time when a hard work and a strong back would take you far. The world had changed since then, and though hard work will take you somewhere; it may not be where you want to go.
The trend of older students returning to college is a result of individuals recognizing that things are not the way they used to be and on-the-job-experience, although valuable, just doesn’t carry the impact of a degree for many companies. Whether this fair is not the point; the reality is that as the job market shrinks and global competition increases, the older workers are finding that opportunity is passing them by, simply because they do not have those letters behind their name. The realization that a degree combined with that job experience may lead to more fulfilling careers (and most likely more money) is not the only reason driving older individuals back to the halls of higher learning though.
Self-esteem can be a highly motivating factor. Many students will tell you that graduating from college is a milestone, one of great accomplishments of their life. Even if that degree never gets put to functional use, the fact that a student had the tenacity, the discipline, and yes, even the intelligence to go back to school and accomplish such a feat can contribute to self-esteem immensely. It goes without saying the many people feel they are worth more than is acknowledged and graduating from college would go a long way in showing others how true that is.
Another aspect that is intimately connected to the self-esteem angle is the shame factor. Say an older worker has been on the job for years, knows the position or department like the back of their hand, and would otherwise be at the minimum, a middle level manger except for the fact-they do not have a college education. Enter the 25-year old kid fresh out “Newbie University” that is introduced as the new boss of this skilled, experienced employee. Opportunity has passed this person by. It didn’t have to happen though. A degree would have opened the door to this employee and they could have seized what “rightfully” belonged to them.
The good news is that colleges and universities recognize this trend and are starting to be accommodating to the older student. Night classes, staggered schedules, accelerated programs, and other enticements make what would otherwise be an impossible dream a reality. Accommodating hours and lightning fast information gathering from the internet make the transition for the older student much easier. That is, much easier than it would have been. This is a trend that college faculty are happy with as well. They understand that the older student is more motivated and generally understands the value of an education. If you want see motivation and discipline, look no further than an older college student. Juggling a full workload with family obligations on top of that is the kind of dedication not normally seen with younger students.
Returning to college is worth the effort. That “effort” is another article completely.