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Online Colleges are Making it Easier for Many Middle-Aged Americans to Return to School

Updated on May 8, 2013

The introduction of online colleges and universities is truly a blessing to many middle-aged Americans. Gone were the days when most working middle-aged Americans could only dream about returning to college. Today, online schools are literally springing up all over the globe.

Despite societal stereotypes that the primary period for learning usually discontinues after adolescence, we know that we are now living in a volatile society, and that's usually during middle age that adult acquire the information and skills they need to meet the constantly changing demands of their jobs. This is as true for information technologist as it is for computer scientists, both of whom work in fields that have changed radically in recent years as a result of an explosion in technology and information.

In large part, middle-aged students are returning to school simply because they have to. Many are unemployed --- the victims of corporate downsizing. Others, both men and women, are moving into the job market after spending time at home as full-time parents. A financial planner for example, who had stopped working for 5yrs or more to raise a child, may need re-certification before any firm will hire him/her. Even adults who were employed part-time during their child-bearing years may have to return to school to acquire the knowledge they need to meet the necessary qualification for a full-time job. This is especially true in fields with a high degree of professional obsolescence.

The decision to return to school, in itself, requires a great deal of considerations and usually the support of family members -- Family members must often assume new responsibilities. It's a decision that involves an assessment of one's skills and abilities. The role of a student is generally very different from the other roles middle-aged adults have assumed, and it requires considerable adaptation.

A student is in a subordinate position as a learner. Also, mature adults may find themselves among a large number of students who are far much younger than they are, and the faculty may also be younger. Some even believe that many colleges and universities sometimes make it difficult for the older student to succeed on campus. Initially, they might feel somewhat uncomfortable with this age difference. It's also common for a new student to harbor feeling of self-doubt while trying to adapt to the college environment, performing unfamiliar tasks in a prescribed fashion.

Some middle-aged adults have problem setting aside time for other responsibilities due to the rigidity of full-time class schedules. Appropriate counseling may not always be available, and the older part-time student, often finds that guidelines for transferring credits, obtaining financial aid, and even admission are geared to the needs of 18-22 years old full time students.

However, this situation has changed. With the realization that middle-aged students are more committed to completing their studies, community colleges and universities are making considerable amount of adjustment to fit their busy home and work schedules. For example, many schools are now offering online college education. Online colleges and universities now tailored to meet the needs of working middle-age students are making it possible for older adults to return to school.


Whatever the reason or reasons for their return, numerous studies have shown that most middle-aged students are very serious about their studies. Despite the fact that their hands are already filled with job and home responsibilities, they still attend lectures regularly, completes assignments on time, and even get better grades, on an average, than other segments of the college student population.


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