An article in the New York Times last week reported that many companies across the United States will not hire anyone unless they have a bachelor’s degree. This includes everyone from the CEO to the file clerk. For adults in New Jersey and New York who do not have their B.A. degree, this is both good news and bad. The bad news is that it is difficult for many adults to get promoted or move into a better job because of their lack of a degree. The good news, however, is that colleges and universities across the country are starting more programs and providing better services for adult students between the ages of 25 and 54. These “new traditional” students are becoming a greater portion of the undergraduate population.
Adult students hear it all the time. The message can be subtle or direct. You won’t have enough time, money, or the skills to complete a college degree. Why do you want to go back to college at your age? When you get finished, you won’t be able to find a job. You will be competing against people half your age.
I’m here to tell you, don’t let anyone dissuade you from your dream. I’ve seen hundreds of success stories.
For the past fifteen years at colleges in New Jersey and New York, I have been working and encouraging adult students to go back to school and complete their degree. The most satisfying day of the year for me — and everyone involved in adult education — is graduation day. It is difficult to find a more rewarding moment than when a mom or dad is called by the president of a university to come up and get their diploma.
I’m one of those stories. I returned to college in 1992. I had received my associates degree in 1982, and then spent the next ten years working. I did everything from working on the grounds crew of a golf course to becoming a community organizer, working for political change and social justice. Through it all, I always knew that I had to get my degree.
I received my bachelor’s degree from Montclair State, and then received a scholarship to attend New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. My work experience played a major factor in my being accepted and excelling at NYU.
I want you to know that the challenges that adult students face can be overcome. And the opportunities and rewards of going back to college are lifelong. I hope to continue this conversation on this blog in the weeks to come.
Daniel Gerger is the Director of Continuing Education, Summer Sessions and Special Programs at Manhattanville College, and lives in Maplewood, N.J., with his wife and three children.