Why Older People are going Back to College

Many individuals return to college at an older age because their current employment opportunities are limited or non-existent and they believe that receiving a formal education and earning a degree will allow them entry into a new or more lucrative field. The truth is that current employment opportunities are limited for college grads of all ages and as ageism does still exist in the hiring process; many older grads may be left with nothing more than huge sums of student loan debt. A college degree is no longer the silver bullet that it once was in terms of landing a decent job. While having a college degree is seemingly better than not having one, experience is still king when it comes to choosing the candidate best suited for the position.

Older employees with degrees are facing a new kind of workforce that allows employers to demand sometimes lengthy ‘trial periods’ or temporary status of their workers. It is not uncommon lately for an individual, even with experience, to have to work first as an intern even at the age of 40 or 50. This can seem especially ridiculous when the manger or supervisor that they report to is only in their 20s. It is best to not put too much faith into websites like salary.com that have continuously made grossly inflated projections regarding job growth in a market that has been and will continue to be stagnant for quite some time. Remember, websites like salary.com make money running ads for online universities and other continuing education institutions. This motivates them to inflate both the reported salaries and job opportunities available.

In addition, continuing education institutions often skew their job placement statistics (if they even offer them) to reflect how many of their former students are employed. This ‘employment’ may not be in the industry that the student earned their degree in. For example, a school may say that 90% their former grads completing a business management degree are now employed. They just won’t tell you how many of them are ‘employed’ at McDonalds because nobody else is hiring right now. Also, most academic institutions do not offer direct placement of any type to their grads, but they will allude to the fact that they do by talking up their ‘career services’ department. Essentially, these departments will help you create a basic cookie-cutter resume (they are basically all the same since no new grads actually have any experience in the field) that will get you nowhere. It is a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of your individual situation very carefully before making the decision to return to school. It would also be wise to consider how those extra monthly student loan payments will be made if no employment opportunities are available at the time of graduation.