By Kimberly K. Ousley
Intently concentrating on my shopping list, shutting
out distractions around me in the school supply aisle
at Wal-mart, I was suddenly startled by a familiar voice
of an old friend I hadnt seen in ages.
Hey, Kim! Are you going broke yet spending a fortune
on school supplies for your son?
Amy, a mother of four, tosses boxes of crayons into
her full cart of school clothes and supplies. I imagine
shes spending her whole paycheck on them.
No. These supplies are actually for me. Im
in school working on my degree. I smile with pride,
sort of like a child who just gave her mom her best
rendering of the family to hang on the kitchen fridge.
Amys jaw drops as if I just told her I plan to
be a brain surgeon.
Wow! How are you doing it?
Well, thats a long story
As we catch up on six years of each others lives,
I explain to her the condensed version of being downsized
at my last job and making the switch to school in hopes
of a better paycheck someday.
To follow a dream, achieve a personal goal and get a
better job were the top three reasons on my list to
plunge into the abyss of textbooks and late night cram
sessions at the age of 30-something. After being downsized
for the fourth time in eight years due to a struggling
economy in a factory town, I knew going back to school
was my only other option regardless of the sparse change
jangling in my pockets.
I am only one of about 20.8 percent of college students
age 35 and over going back to school, according to recent
studies from the Census Bureau. Two major reasons
for baby boomers heading back to the classroom are job
loss and the need for job security due to constantly
changing technology. Women who want to re-enter the
work force after their children head off to college
or who went through a divorce are also determining factors.
This rising student demographic means increased revenue
for many universities who are developing special programs
for adults needing to further their education or change
Terri Gibson, a mother of four majoring in education
at Anderson University, says many women her age (40
plus) need a sense of fulfillment after raising their
kids. I want to make a difference in others
lives as well as provide an income for myself,
she said. For Betty Bricker, another student at Anderson,
getting a degree would determine whether she would get
to keep her job in social work when her company was
downsized. She was informed that a bachelors degree
was required to keep the position. Two of my daughters
were students at Anderson and they told me about the
adult education students in their classes, said
Bricker. They encouraged me to check it out, and
when I did they thought it was great that I was going
to be there with them.