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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. Today’s 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 other’s 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 for
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 born.

“Well, I figured if you don’t have two nickels to rub together and are making it, then maybe I could do it,” she told me. She’s 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 them.

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