Understanding why Greater Numbers of Older Students are Returning to College

The diverse backgrounds of older students make the trend of returning to college a mosaic of faces with a variety of stories to tell. All these stories make up the picture of a generation that won’t settle for how they’re parents sailed off into the sunset. Perhaps it was the changing economics that caused someone to rethink the need for further education. Maybe it was for the first time in their lives they could see themselves pursuing a lifelong dream or ambition. Sometimes the color of their skin as a youth prevented them from being challenged or even viewed as a candidate for college. Often counselors never even spoke to them of their future.

Years ago, many mothers would watched soap operas all day long. They knew the intimate details of these character’s lives as though they were her best friends. These mothers would talk to a neighbor about a terrible fire at a character’s house and alarming the neighbor’s husband who would say “honey we should go over there and see what we can do to help”. They would laugh as they explained to him the fire was on one of the soap opera shows. With this type of commitment to a TV show there was no time for real life adventures. This was not the life for a young girl filled with hopes of excitement, adventure and dreams of reaching the highest heights! There had to be a better life than this.

The sixties was a time of turmoil for our country but it also planted seeds of hope in the minds of children who were witnessing a change in what was possible for a person to achieve. Many children of this era heard you needed to get a good education to make it in this world. Sadly the reality was that some students were not expected to go any further than the factory or some vocation that would merely allow them to live a regular day to day existence. It was a time when hearing the words of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King while these men were alive, in the fragrance of a time when a young boy believed a better life was really possible; often a seed was planted that would lay dormant for many years.

Many times the path that was laid out ahead took a detour. The choice of a friend, a mate, or a dead-end career would veer one far off course from where wanted really want to be. Everyday life took momentum with children, a home , bills, little league and PTA looming high on the priority list. Many woke up one day like Rip Van Winkle and wondered where did the last twenty years go?

From the determination of not being one who adjusts her schedule to seeing if Shelly will regain her memory on “The Guiding Light”; to the germinating seed growing inside of that man who still wants to reach the mountain top; to that mother who is fascinated by what she reads in her kid’s science books- there is a story to tell about why someone returns to college. A story that will shape a life that no longer will be on hold. A story of a life that wants to write the next chapter of there future. A story that is a part of a picture of many who like them sit in a seat in a classroom lecture hall. A place that replaces the chalk drawn hopscotch games and slides of steel in their youth for a college campus- a playground for their mind.