You graduated from high school and were tired of sitting in classes. So, instead of going straight to college, you decided to sit out one year and take a break from school. Only now, that one year has turned into many. You have a family and either you or your spouse work more than one job to pay the bills.
Because you don’t have a college degree, you’ve been laid off or are in a lower-paying job. Your options are limited. Maybe you’ve been passed over for promotion. Your opportunities are limited. You realize that you need more schooling, but how can you? Your time is taken mostly by work with a few hours for the family, and money is tight, especially now. You feel trapped.
It’s sad when we realize we’ve missed an opportunity in life. There’s a sense of loss at what could have been. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that people with bachelor’s degrees make on average almost $21,000 more per year than someone with a high school diploma. After five years, that’s an income difference of $100,000, not one that can be made up quickly. Additionally, per the BLS, a person with only a high school diploma faces unemployment at the rate of 9.7% versus a bachelor’s degree holder, who is looking at 5.2% unemployment.
The sadness of “what could have been” will consume you if you allow it. But with all the educational choices, programs and financial aid available today, there’s no need to let that happen. You can reverse your earlier decision and make your college degree a reality.
Have doubts? No, it’s not easy. Yes, it requires a commitment and hard work. However, if you can keep your family afloat in your current situation in this current economy, you certainly have what it takes to succeed in college. Imagine what you’ll do once you have that piece of paper!
Due to the economy and the changing job market, trends show adults are returning to college moreso now than ever before. The website Going Back to College says “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 Institute for Higher Education Policy reports that students aged 40 and older increased by 235 percent from 1970 to 1993.”
Colleges and universities have responded to this growing share of adult learners by adding a greater number of evening classes for those who must work during the day. They also offer weekend classes, accelerated courses, instructional TV courses, and even online classes that you can take at home according to your schedule. Many campuses allow testing for credit or will award college credit for work experience. Some will evaluate military schools, too. The more credits awarded, the less time in school and the less cost. This means graduating sooner.
Now, there are more and newer federal and private financial aid grants and loan programs in play, not to mention scholarships. Some can be used for the cost of living while you’re in school, so maybe you can drop that part time job and still afford to feed your family. Perhaps your employer has a tuition reimbursement program, or you’re a veteran and qualify for Veteran’s benefits. Maybe you’re a candidate for retraining through the Department of Labor. You’ll find programs that will help you with on-campus employment, transportation, child care and even accommodations if you’re disabled.
Don’t know how to start? Meet with a school advisor or a Veterans Administration or Department of Labor counselor. Talk to your family and get their support because you’ll need it. You’re return to school will be a sacrifice for the family, but that’s exactly who will directly benefit once you’re done. Talk to your employer and ask him or her to support your school schedule around the work schedule.
Decide what your interests are and match them to a field of study. Educational programs are offered now that didn’t exist when you left high school, especially with the technology explosion. Talk to a financial aid expert to see what your personal situation qualifies you for in grants and loans. Applications can be found online at the U.S. Department of Education or the local community college or university. You can also review the website College for Adults.
If you make the commitment and believe in yourself, you can still enjoy the rewards you’ve been missing out on. Most of all, you can experience the personal satisfaction of “what will be” when you throw your hat and tassel into the air on graduation day!