It’s Never Too Late to Earn a College Degree


CSN students Rachel Carruth, 42, and son Cody Carruth, 22, studying together

By Rachel Carruth

Going back to school later in life can be a wonderfully daunting experience. The challenge can bring together the delights of learning while opening new avenues for professional success.

A large part of the older population of students have already had successful careers, served time in the military, raised families and led rewarding lives. With the current economic times, though, many are starting new chapters in their professional lives requiring education and degrees.

According to The Institute for Higher Education, the dismal job market has sent baby boomers back to school. Mid-career professionals are enhancing their job credentials or switching fields. The need for degrees is apparent.

Karen Camilletti, a 43-year-old College of Southern Nevada student, said it was a necessity for her to go back to school. She is currently a massage therapist and plans on becoming a paralegal. She is taking family law classes at CSN. She returned to school to increase her marketability.

“I was impressed with the classes at CSN and the quality of instructors. I also found it easy to navigate the system,” Camilletti said.

There are many students at CSN who are older than 40. According to CSN Facts in Brief, 16 percent of the student population is comprised of that group. These students make a unique contribution that will enrich the academic and social life of the college.

“It’s important for our society,” said Jim Cohen, a CSN student studying mental health services. “It creates a bond between the younger and older generations.”

Cohen said, “I was motivated to attend college because an article stated that seniors age 62 or over could attend college at virtually no cost…I actually began taking advantage of this opportunity when I was 63.”

“For me, I didn’t know that at my age I had an opportunity to make one of the best choices of my life and I’m grateful for it,” Cohen said.

Another student Hillary Hopkins who graduated in May 2011 from the nursing program at CSN was also inspired to go back to school.

“I feel I brought perspectives and experiences to class discussions. Not always because of my age, necessarily, but because of instances I endured through life,” Hopkins said. “My father passing from cancer actually inspired me to return to school later in life.” She was inspired to go into nursing because of her father’s condition.

The Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education reports that students who are over 25 make up 47 percent of the new and returning student population on many college campuses today.

The National Center for Education statistics states that there were 3.3 million adults older than 35 enrolled in college in 2010.

Smart states that the number of students in the bracket 50 to 64 years old increased by 17 percent from fall 2007 to fall 2009. It shows a clear increase in enrollment due to the economic crash.

In 2008, the American Association of Community Colleges launched its Plus 50 Initiative. The Initiative empowers community colleges to create or expand campus programs that engage the plus 50 student population in learning, training or re-training programs, according to the website.

There are several scholarships that provide support for those who chose to return to school later in life. Some of these are linked with the American Association of Retired People.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream,” C.S. Lewis wrote.

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