By Jason Middlebrooks/ south news editor

Raquel Spears

Former TCC student Teresa McClellan and current student Raquel Spears both faced a dilemma.

They had to go back to school to keep their jobs.

McClellan’s story starts after the Great Recession of 2007. Harris Methodist Hospital Downtown Fort Worth decided to convert its nursing staff from a mix of licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses to strictly RNs. She was given three years to finish her education. TCC was the obvious choice for McClellan since the school’s pricing and scheduling worked for her.

Like many students, both women had started their college careers in the past but eventually dropped out. After the recession, they found themselves having to go back and finish. They all had started with the basics.

“The last time we took a math class was back in the ’80s,” she said. “We thought it was going to be easy, but then we walked into the classroom. It was filled with computers.”

Math proved itself to be no easy task for McClellan. She had to learn how to operate the learning software. McClellan credits the help of her fellow students and math lab instructors. She says her classmates were a great resource.

“They really do not mind helping you as long as you are listening,” she said. “This one guy that was in my class, very smart, was delighted to help. He loved to learn and share his knowledge.”

Spears’ story is slightly different. As a tech, she maxed out on her earnings with Harris and decided to go back to school to better herself. With rent going up and car payments due, she was left with no choice. Only currently taking her basics, she doesn’t know what she wants to achieve in her college career, but she is interested in the radiologic technology program.

“Taking care of my child and money was my greatest motivation,” she said. “TCC worked with my schedule and my budget.”

The Great Recession affected everything, such as gas prices, apartment rent and a falling housing market. Not only did it affect people currently in the workforce, it greatly affected students coming out of high school. With tuition for four-year colleges going up, many students opted to stay closer to home and attend community colleges with lower tuition.

Some can see this from a positive light. TCC itself can be seen as a launch pad to a four-year college since students can see where they stand without building a great amount of debt.

Oscar Pena found himself transferring back to TCC after spending a semester attending Texas Wesleyan University.

“I like Texas Wesleyan,” he said. “The campus is really nice, but the financially responsible option is TCC.”

According to an article in New York Times Magazine, a recession can keep people in school or drive them back, reminding people of the value of a college degree.

For example, Joe Thomas Sr., a 55-year-old running back for South Carolina State, decided to go back to college after the recession ended his construction business. He’s now pursuing a degree in engineering and using the opportunity to become a college sports hero.

The recession provided a booming period for low-cost college institutions in America. According to Community College Review, enrollment increased by 25 percent between 2007 and 2009 among new students from high school and older students. This booming period is helping people prove to themselves that it is never too late to finish and they can do anything they set their minds to.

McClellan left TCC in 2011, transferred to El Centro College and graduated in 2012. She is currently working as an RN at Harris Methodist Downtown Fort Worth while pursuing a Bachelor of Science in nursing.

“I like proving people wrong,” McClellan said. “I have heard people say, ‘I’m too old to go back. Go back for what?’ Once you get started, do not stop. You’ll regret it. You’ve got to have a degree nowadays.”