Not Just for Teenagers Any More

by Bernadette Engel-Whitley

If you went to college a few years ago you would not recognize it today. The average class has students whose ages range from 16 to 60. It is also not uncommon to see a student bring their children with them to class. Colleges are going out of their way to recruit non-traditional students. This is done with part-time programs, night programs, and non-traditional classes. I will explain how going to college could be important for you emotionally, mentally and financially. How it can help you for your return to the market place or for advancement in your career.

There are many ways that going to college can be emotionally satisfying. First is the fact that you will have adult conversations, and this is really important for stay at home moms. You can take pride in your accomplishments. There is an unexplainable joy in getting a good grade. I know from being a stay at home mother that the admiration and sense of accomplishment you get from a career are non-existent when you are a mother. Spending one to two nights a week in class allows me to have mentally stimulating conversations and gives me an outlet to show I am more than just a mother.

Going to college also allows you to stay informed with the latest information in your career field for when or if you decide to return to work. It will also help to keep you informed of new technology. Also if you are interested in politics such as a parent's right to homeschool, or sex education in kindergarten classes you will have access to lectures on these topics as well as politicians who give speeches. This will allow you to stay informed as well as let your opinion be known.

There are many financial benefits for going to college. One of the things that will help you decide if you want to attend is if you qualify for financial aid or scholarships. A grant is money that does not have to be paid back. This usually covers tuition, books, and childcare. There are also many scholarships tailored to older or returning students that could pay your tuition or books.

The majority of Universities give you full university benefits even if you are only taking one class. The most important benefit to me is the medical benefits. They offer many free preventative services such as blood sugar testing, pregnancy testing and eye and hearing screening. Another benefit is the use of the workout facilities. Usually you can get a family membership for a lot cheaper than a swimming club, and the university usually offers many free classes.

A second benefit is childcare/school for children under six. Universities normally charge 1/2 to 2/3 the going rate of private schools/daycare for Montessori style childcare. The teacher/student ratio is usually smaller than the state minimum because a large portion of the workers are education students and are earning school credits rather than being paid. Another benefit is the use of University facilities such as libraries, learning centers, education centers (a must if you home school), parks, organizations, and other miscellaneous benefits.

When choosing a college or university it is better to choose the more non-traditional schools. Colleges with a large amount of commuter students are the best. They are better set up to deal with students who are non-traditional.

It is also better to choose a college that advertises or promotes part-time students and nighttime student programs. More non-traditional than traditional schools offer non-class room based classes. You can choose from telecourses which allow you to watch instruction over a television then mail in your assignments, virtual or web based courses that are done completely over the internet, independent studies which are done on your own time, or from portfolio assignments that will give you credit for life experiences. Portfolio assignments are an easy and fast way to gain credits if you already have knowledge on particular subjects. Some colleges will even let you test out of courses and obtain credits for a fraction of the price.

In conclusion I feel a college education is an avenue to consider. Even if you are not going for a degree there are many benefits you can enjoy from attending college.

Updated November 2013

Bernadette Engel-Whitley is a stay home mother of two, ages 4 and 2 months and is a student at Northern Kentucky University.

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