College is Possible at Any Stage in Life
After Amanda received her high school diploma along with 425 of her classmates in June 2011, she headed to community college on a partial scholarship to take general requirements such as composition, history, and biology. Community college was going to be her gateway to a 4-year degree in communications where she hoped to be a journalist. Amanda shared an apartment with some friends with the money she was saving by attending community college before heading off to a public 4-year university. After a successful year of attending classes and working part-time at a retail store, Amanda started taking more hours to pay for her growing expenses and she fell for her manager. The two became close and started dating. Amanda found herself pregnant and only half-way through her 2-year program.
She moved in with her boyfriend but wasn’t fortunate enough to have full medical benefits with her job, so the pending expense of caring for an infant forced her to work an additional part-time job and put college on hold.
Now that Amanda’s baby is nearing school-age, she wants to get back into school to pursue her dream of working as a journalist but now the obstacles to education seem even greater than before.
Amanda’s story is like so many others. High schools push college, both 2 and 4-year and there are many scholarships and grants available to these graduates. Almost every high schooler has been presented with the evidence to support pursuing a college degree.
- College graduates earn an average beginning salary of $45,000 compared to the $28,000 for those with only a high school diploma.
- College graduates earn about half a million dollars more over their working lifetime compared to their high school classmates without a college diploma.
- 83% of college graduates say that their college degree has paid off.
It seems as if everyone is attending college these days. And many do attend. In fact, in 2014, there were 21 million students in college. But there are a shocking number who do not graduate with those post-high school degrees. Students like Amanda are no longer recent high school graduates. They have work and life experiences and are now seeing the true need for this advanced degree but are at a disadvantage to pursue one, because they no longer have guidance counselors and teachers guiding them towards these institutions. And institutions are seemingly less interested in offering scholarships and other incentives.
But there are colleges and universities out there who recognize the need to make higher education possible for women like Amanda. Some colleges recognize the obstacles such as:
- Child care
- Need for night and weekend classes
- Need financial assistance to afford tuition and books
- Help navigating the educational system
With the right college, Amanda can, in fact, pursue her communications degree and still work and care for her son. It may not have been the path she envisioned in that brief moment when she left the auditorium with the class of ’11 to “Pomp and Circumstance,” but it is achievable.
Amanda’s classmate and chemistry partner Eric finished his 2-year degree from a community college in communications studies while working part-time at a grocery store. Armed with a 2-year degree in hand, he applied for numerous full-time jobs in his degree area but most wanted a 4-year degree. Even the grocery store where he was working wanted him to pursue a 4-year degree if he wanted to get on the managerial track. He doesn’t want to give up his good job at the grocery, and he can’t, really, because he has a car to pay for and he is trying to move into an apartment of his own. Eric also is long since out of high school and needs guidance to navigate the university system. He could also use some scholarships to offset the costs. He, too, needs evening and weekend classes in order to keep his part-time job. If Eric hopes to earn a 4-year degree in communications studies, he needs the right college, one that will help him make a smooth re-entry to the college system.
So while many high school graduates start post secondary education right away, it is not uncommon for life circumstances to change that plan. Colleges that cater to adult education can bridge that gap.