Many middle-aged adults are returning to the classroom for additional learning and a second career. 

Community colleges are seeing a rise in the number of older students enrolling in classes. Some of them may have decided to go back to school for a career change. Some may be required to learn new technologies for their job, or they may have attended college in the past and want to finish their degree. 

Whatever the reason, a recent national survey by Champlain College Online found that 60% of U.S. adults aged 23-55 without a bachelor’s degree have considered returning to school.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/07/01/going-back-to-college-after-50-the-new-normal). 

Currently, people in the 50-year age demographic make-up around five or six percent of the community college population throughout the U.S., according to USA Today. 

There are a lot of good reasons to go back to school, claims a study published in Health Affairs. 

“The life expectancy for men with a bachelor’s degree was 12.9 years higher than those with less education. The life expectancy for women with a bachelor’s degree was 10.4 years higher than those without,” the report reads. (https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0746#ref-36). 

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a person is unhealthy if they lack basic knowledge, the ability to reason, emotional capacities of self-awareness and emotional regulation, and skills of social interaction. 

Adults with lower educational attainment have higher rates of circulatory diseases, liver disease, diabetes, and psychological symptoms such as sadness, worthlessness and hopelessness. Adults with a higher education level have less exposure to stress-related economic deprivation and are less likely to adopt unhealthy coping patterns. Another reason for going back to school is to improve your financial health. With the high cost of living these days, more people are putting off retirement and working into their seventies and even eighties.

Ardolia Jones, a journalism major at OCCC, decided to go back to college so he could keep up with his school-age children. 

“Education has changed so much from when I was a kid, and I didn’t want to feel stupid when I was helping my kids with their homework,” Jones said.  

Jones mentioned his, “only concerns about enrolling in school at age 40 was being out of place. But after I got comfortable about being there, I was cool.” 

Michael Hoggatt, the Director of Recruiting and Admissions at OCCC, had some great advice for older students pursuing a college degree. 

“Learning about campus resources is paramount,” said Hoggatt. “A big part of it is knowing what’s available to you, to help make the transition back into the classroom smoother. We offer courses in what we call different modalities. We offer online courses, evening courses, courses in the 8-week format, and courses in the 16-week format, so you can go in and choose what’s best for you. We like to use the phrase, on your terms, so you can go to college and still be able to handle your work-life balance. We’re very flexible here at OCCC.”

Hoggatt also said OCCC has facilities available. 

“[M]ath labs (area) available to those students who may need help in math, and we have language labs available for student use. The Writing Center here has a lot to offer, and we use Zoom Meetings to connect with our students, as well. We want our students to be aware of the avenues and resources available to them so they can best utilize their skills to help make the move back into the classroom easier for them,” he said.  

There you have it. If you have thought about going back to college but didn’t think you could afford it, check in to financial aid and I think you’ll be surprised at the funding that’s available. 

And if you rejected the idea of continuing your education because you didn’t think you could fit college into your busy schedule, OCCC’s flexible curriculum may be just the ticket for you.

Michael Hoggatt, the Director of Recruiting and Admissions at OCCC. Photo by Cynthia Homan

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