More opportunities than ever are available for boomers looking to get a college degree—but should you go back to school? Here are a few reasons why you should.
Baby boomers represent a growing portion of today’s college students—and they’re not just learning for fun. In fact, boomers are returning to school to advance their career prospects and earn more money for retirement and other financial obligations. With the number of workers at age 55 estimated to grow to 25% by 2020 (compared to 13 percent in 2000), this generation doesn’t want to clock off anytime soon.
With serious financial and professional motivations, the number of college-bound boomers keeps rising: in 2007 alone, the number of college students between ages 40 and 64 rose to two million. Boomers also return to school to complete unfinished degrees, learn new material that interests them, or adapt to other personal transitions.
More opportunities than ever are available for boomers looking to get a college degree—but should you go back to school? Here are a few reasons why you should consider enrolling:
You Can Help The Community
A survey by MetLife and Civic Adventures found that 50 percent of boomers want to make career changes that benefit the greater good; those surveyed were particularly interested in education, social services, and health care jobs. Since these sectors face a high demand for new employees, a college degree provides the ideal stepping stone toward a stable job that helps others.
You Can Have More Flexibility
Boomers aren’t limited to traditional four-year degrees; they now have more program options between online courses and community colleges. People who want to meet the growing demand for nurse practitioners, for instance, can take online classes from accredited schools at home. Community colleges may also provide more schedule flexibility and resources for the boomer student population.
You Don’t Have to Retire
Don’t quit your job or retire to make time for college—the majority of large companies offer some form of assistance while you attend school. Businesses offer everything from tuition reimbursement to stock shares for those who finish their degrees. Returning to college could provide more opportunities for advancement in the company where you already work; simply ask your employer about available options.
You May Qualify for Financial Aid
Though many forms of financial assistance are only available to recent high school graduates, nontraditional and returning students can also qualify for scholarships and loans. According to FinAid, many scholarships have no age limits or are open exclusively to the boomer bracket; you may also be eligible for Pell grants or reduced tuition.
You Can Reinvent Yourself
If you have worked in the same industry for a while, college provides the chance to learn new skills and refresh your professional goals. You don’t have to go back to school just to enhance your career—many boomers attend classes for personal enrichment.
Your Work Experience Matters
Some studies suggest that adult students prefer an active learning approach that allows them to integrate lessons with their work experience and personal lives. Your career, then, provides plenty of supplemental information that will advance your understanding of class material—college students that pursue their degrees right after high school do not have the same advantage.
Colleges Want You
Some schools have received special grants to help boomers transition into “encore” jobs after college, with workshops and tools to identify career strengths and learn marketable skills. The Plus 50 Initiative is one source of funding that helps community colleges cater to the boomer population; this initiative provides more resources for technical training and career development, and has already helped more than 24,000 students.
You may have reservations about going back to school; maybe you’re concerned about not spending much time in your new career, paying high tuition, or competing with younger graduates in the job market. But boomers come to the classroom with more advantages than they realize: a strong work ethic to stay with a new job for years to come, expanded financial aid options, and the potential to work in a demanding field that’s ready to hire new graduates.
What are you waiting for? If you’re considering a career change or simply want to advance in your current role, now is the best time to get your college degree.
About the Author:
Abigail Clark is an up-and-coming freelance writer. She graduated from The University of South Florida with a bachelors in marketing, minoring in journalism. When she isn’t up to her neck in coupons she is enjoying the outdoors fishing. She loves doing reviews for technology, home products and beauty products. If you would like her to do a review for you look her up on twitter @downtownabby17.
Photo: Michael Dorausch