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Boomers Back to School (or, finishing college in your fifties and beyond)

Updated on August 11, 2014

If you Dream About College

If you are not too old to dream, then you should consider your education. You worked your whole lifetime to provide for you and all those dependent upon you. Now it's your turn. Now it's time to do what will make you happy.

If you are afraid of the bill, seek financial counselling. If you are afraid that the college you want to attend doesn't offer help to older students, then seek advice from an Admissions Counsellor. If possible,walk through the campus of the school you wish to attend and look for older students who will take a moment to talk to you about their experience. Consider the return to school carefully, but do consider it.

State Of The Union-Full Video- "We Do Big Things"

Baby Boomers Going Back to School

Why College?

During the Great Recession that our country suffered recently, a great many people found themselves out of work for the first time in many years. The types of jobs that we were used to working just diasppeared. Many of the unemployed were middle aged people. Too young to retire, many boomers found themselves competing with younger, often more educated people for the few lucrative jobs that were left. We often found ourselves at a disadvanage as more and more employers value educational training over experience.

I remember attending a party at the end of 2008 where the guests spanned a whole spectrum of people from ages 18 to 60. Our hostess asked the question "Who's back in college now?" Almost every hand went up.

The need for change is apparent. Many of the older industries are falling by the wayside in favor of new, more technological corporations. The need to care better for our environment has become much more urgent, and jobs will follow suit. It has also become obvious to many boomers that if we want to keep working until we are financially ready to retire, we need to keep up with the world we live in, and for many of us that includes the furthering of our education.

The obvious answer for many of us is to up our skill level. That often means either college or a good trade school.

Even if you don't need college for employment, you might want to go there for the purpose of personal fulfillment. Life has many ways to detour us from our chosen life course. As we get older, we may feel that we won't be able to reach our desired level of education. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many schools out there that are developing programs that cater to older students. Many schools actually welcome seniors as they are more motivated to complete their desired learning. In any case, it is normal for middle aged people to evaluate their life's course and make more focussed choices.

When I grow too old to dream - Linda Ronstadt

Why Return to School if Your Over 50?

If you returned to school after your fiftieth birthday, why did you do it?

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Some Things to Consider

Several States have lifelong learning provisions for seniors. Also, many colleges have programs where people in their fifties and beyond can attend college courses for free on a space available basis. It pays to investigate whether these programs are available at the college of your choice.

Paying for College

To obtain an associates degree at a community college can cost a small fortune, and the higher up you want to go the higher the cost. How you are going to pay for your degree is an important consideration, especially so close to retirement.

Currently, student loans cannot be included in bankruptcy filings. There are no guarantees that furthering your education will lead to a better paying job. It is very important to weigh the cost of college against the financial burden that it will ultimately create. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that getting a better education will increase your earnings. You might just end up being a 60 year old with a $60,000 student loan debt and no way to pay for it.

If you decide that it's worth it, there are steps that you have to take in order to be considered for financial aid. First, you should contact the financial aid counsellor at the college that you plan to attend. They can help you through the process, and they may have information that is not readily available elsewhere.

Next, you will have to fill out the FAFSA. (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) To do this, you will need your Social Security Number, your driver's license number and a copy of your Federal Income Tax for the year in question. Follow the directions on the Fafsa site. Their reply will tell you what aid is available to you.

You should also consider doing a web search and a search at the public library to see if you can find additional sources that may reduce your debt. You never know until you try if you will be able to find grants or scholarships that are tailor made to your situation.


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