Reasons to Smile
(Continued from 1)
According to CNN, for-profit
schools and non-profit state universities have
had a substantial boomer enrollment with
the median age in the mid-30s or higher. Non-traditional
students are considered the new majority, "
with a significant number attending only part-time.
These part-time students include single mothers who
must work full-time, more people working in urban areas,
increasing access to instructional technology, and a
growing population who are 55 and older. Another major
reason for the upswing is the financial bottom line:
While the average family income has tripled since 1970,
the figures are reported to be misleading unless adjusted
for inflation. Todays average family income is
only $4,200 ahead of the average family income of 1970.
Meanwhile, real costs have risen for health care, housing,
and college tuition. For many adults, part-time study
has become the only feasible option to finance their
education and upgrade skills for better-paying jobs.
My own participation in the classroom has been quite
a learning experience. Being the only adult student
in most classes has seemed overwhelming at times, with
the accompanying feelings of inadequacy over my lack
of knowledge and the advantage I felt my traditional
peers might have over me. I remember the first time
I brought my new textbooks home, my then nine-year-old
son Matthew asked if we could trade and look at each
others books. I felt thrilled that he took such
an interest in what I was doing, and since then we have
shared many nights of studying, and researching topics
at the library (he has even tutored me on the computer.)
He always asks to see my report card, and has made it
his own goal to achieve straight As into his senior
year in high school.
Many adults find balancing family, work and school resembles
a juggling act at a circus. Which priority to put first
when they all compete for the top position? I have done
many homework assignments on benches at sporting events
my son, asking his grandmother to nudge me when Matthew
was up to bat, or getting ready to go into a basketball
game. Now my friend Amy, whom I mentioned earlier, is
trying to balance work, ball games for four kids, and
a full-time school schedule. Two months after our previous
encounter, she called me and asked how she could sign
up for school. She wanted to go back and finish her
teaching degree started years ago before her marriage
and children, especially since she was facing an eminent
divorce and had been a stay-at-home mom the last thirteen
years with no work experience before her children were
Well, I figured if you dont have two nickels
to rub together and are making it, then maybe I could
do it, she told me. Shes the second friend
of mine who has decided to work toward a degree.
Education is the key to opening doors for many new possibilities.
Going back to school for me was not only the right thing
to do, but has also been the best time of my life.
Kimberly Ousley is a freelance writer both locally
and nationally for the newspaper and magazine market,
and will be receiving her mass communications/journalism
degree on May 10, 2003. She will be attending Ball State
University in the Fall for a graduate degree in public
relations. Kim has watched three friends go back to school
after seeing her example, and she is pleased to have inspired