The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Economy brings back more returning students to college

By Tammy Morgan-Hilliard/reporter

With the recent economic turns, more and more adults are returning to college to get a degree, finish a degree or change their field of study.

Re-entry students may worry about financing school. They may wonder what they will do with their children while in school and how they will maintain their jobs.

Others may worry about when they will have time to study, how well they will do, whether they will “fit in” with the younger generation and whether they can understand what is being taught.

Going back to college can be scary. Since many returning students have not stepped inside a classroom in years, study habits and the ability to retain information are major concerns. Experts, though, say these worries need not keep someone from going back to pursue their goal.

Linda Hines, TCC’s institutional research director, said the median age of a student is 25.

“We have had students well into their 70s and 80s,” she said. “There are statistical reports on the TCC Web site, under Office of Institutional Research, that give all types of information that may be of interest to new and returning students.” 

The Department of Education has reported 13 percent of returning students are single parents. TCC’s research department has little information about how many parents are first-time college students.

But research indicates TCC is an educational home to many older students. With life experiences, many ideas and subjects taught in college may very well be easier to understand for a returning adult than for a recent high school graduate.

Since most adults must maintain jobs while in school, they must consider the amount of time required to attend school and the financial options available. Students can find many ways to pay for school such as grants, scholarships and student loans. TCC financial aid offers forms online and in the campus offices. The application for federal student aid is free. Any questions regarding financial aid options can be directed to 817-515-4AID.

For re-entry students who must work while going to school, getting to school before or after work can be a challenge. TCC students can enroll in distance learning programs that include online classes and instructional television with various viewing options.

Distance learning has become a way to attend classes from home. At TCC, students pay the same tuition for distance education and on-campus classes.

Distance learning is also an option for re-entry students with children. And TCC offers Saturday classes and accelerated classes for those who need classes on the weekends or a shorter semester.

If re-entry students cannot take leave of their jobs while returning to school, they need to allow time for studying and completing homework. Time management is a major component of distance learning. If students are not disciplined enough to be consistently adherent to their studies, it is easy to get behind.

Any unnecessary deviations from a regular study schedule can cause a student’s grade to lower quickly. Learning to prioritize can help. Finding time for studying may take careful planning on the part of the student as well as the family.

Planning ahead for dinners helps keep time in the kitchen down to a minimum, and finding a quiet place to work can reduce distractions from television or children.

Pam Roberson was the single parent of a teenage son when she decided to return to school to pursue her dream of being a counselor. She worked full time, took care of her son and went to school in the evenings.

“I took all of my core classes at TCC, and then I transferred to a state university,” she said.

“As a single mom, it helped financially. It was close to home, and the classes were smaller.”

Since classes in community colleges are generally smaller, the relationship between the student and the teacher can be less formal.

Having a good relationship with the teacher helps create an atmosphere of cooperation and open communication.

Students can conference with a teacher through office visits, phone calls, e-mail, chat rooms or discussion boards, so concerns or questions can be addressed quickly and efficiently.

Roberson said working with a young person’s fresh perspective and input can make many classes much more interesting and fulfilling.

“I was older when I returned to school, and I was a little worried, but I knew that it was what I wanted to do and so I did it,” she said.

“I figured that I’d be the oldest one in classes, but I wasn’t.

I was actually really happy to go to classes with young people since I was going to be counseling young people. I learned a lot from them.”

Roberson received a master’s in psychology and is a public school counselor.

“Returning to school or even starting school when you’re older is a challenge, but it is well worth it,” she said.

“It took a while to learn it, but I did learn to not overload myself … not to wear myself too thin in any area of my life. It’s important to have family time and personal time but to also stay diligent with school.

“It’s an achievement that I’m definitely proud of because if I can do it, anyone can.”


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