College freshmen are often recent high school graduates, but research shows that the number of college students who are over the age of 25 is increasing rapidly. The National Center for Education Statistics found that the enrollment of students under 25 increased by 27 percent between 2000 and 2009 while the enrollment of students 25 and older during the same period rose over 43 percent!
People are deciding to go back to school for a variety of reasons, particularly because unemployment rates among job seekers with high school educations are substantially higher than unemployment rates among college graduates.
Adult students who already have two- or four-year degrees are also returning to college to pursue more advanced degrees in hopes of advancing their careers and increasing their earning potential. If you are thinking about going back to school but feel doubtful or have some questions, consider the following:
The 2008 financial crisis caused many students to turn to community colleges rather than four-year universities. According to the College Board, students at community colleges pay on average less than $3,000 per year for tuition and fees. And even though prices are low, financial aid is still available for students who qualify.
Community colleges offer programs that lead to associate degrees and job-specific certificates. Community college credits often transfer to four-year colleges or universes, where you can continue your education and complete your bachelor’s degree.
Financial aid in the form of grants, student loans and scholarships is available for many adult students. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FASFA) at the official government website www.fafsa.ed.gov to see how much assistance you could be eligible to receive. Never enter your personal information on websites with similar addresses or sites that charge you to apply. Filing the FAFSA is free!
You might even qualify for free job training depending on your employment situation and where you live. CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, has information about programs by state.
If you have a job, check to see if your employer offers any type of tuition reimbursement program. Many large companies will cover at least some portion of employees’ educational expenses.
In addition to the economic downturn, more and more working adults are returning to college because it is becoming easier to do so thanks to online classes. The 2011 Survey of Online Learning found that the rate of enrollments in online programs is ten times the rate of all higher education enrollments. Over 6 million students are now taking at least one online class, which means that thirty-one percent of all higher education students take at least one of their classes online.
Not sure if online classes are right for you? Don’t give up on your college dream. Late-night classes are also growing in popularity across the country. Overcrowding due to enrollment increases and the fact that about two-thirds of community college students have full-time jobs has select colleges offering classes at midnight, explains USA Today. These incredibly late classes for night owls are relatively new, but most schools offer at least some classes in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate students with jobs and families.
Taking a class taught by a professor who is young enough to be their own child is cause for panic for some older adults considering going back to college. The thought of collaborating with students half their age is embarrassing to others. It’s important to realize that college students no longer fit into an 18- to 24-year old mold. You won’t stick out like a sore thumb as you’re imagining.
Many colleges also have tracks designed specifically for adult learners who are going back to school, such as the Program for Experienced Learners at Eckerd College on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
All too often, it is fear that keeps people from going back to school. If you’ve been out of high school or college for several years, especially if you have been laid off from your job, the thought of heading back to the class is nerve-wracking. You’ll be pleased to know that Fox Business reports that once most adults get back into the classroom, they are more motivated to learn than they were at a younger age.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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