Saturday, January 09, 2016

Over 50 and thinking of going back to school?

I am 56 and I was just doing a bit of preliminary research on the topic of going back to school. I've thought about it for a long time. There are several reasons why I haven't pursued it. Most have to do with my personal situation as a caregiver for my wife who has Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and some other issues.
In the late seventies and early eighties, a stretch running from my late teens to early twenties, I attended the University of Utah. Part way through what was probably my junior "year" (like many people, I was taking a bit longer than four years to go through college while working full time to support my family), I got hired by the U.S. Postal Service. For me, accepting that job was a no-brainer. Since my high school graduation in '77, and my marriage in '80, I had  been working low-wage jobs with not a lot of upward mobility potential--at least not in careers that sounded interesting to me, and nothing imminent. At the time I accepted the job as a letter carrier, I had been working for Zion's Bank in Utah making three something an hour. I instantly jumped up to eight something an hour, so I was pumped. I was excited because that meant I could pay off my debts (including student loans and the medical expenses for our first child who had been born when we didn't have insurance), and that we would no longer have to live hand to mouth.
I thought then that I could go back to school later and finish my degree. However as often happens, life got in the way. My wife, Ann wanted to be a stay at home mom while the kids were young and I was supportive of that. But what that meant is that she wanted me to take my turn with the kids when I got off work--not go off to take classes and study at night. And, I needed to spend time with them. Dads are supposed to do that kind of thing and I wanted to be a good dad.
Still, I had it in the back of my mind that I would one day want to complete my schooling. Little did I know that there was some kind of limitation for how long those classes I had taken previously could be counted towards my degree. By the way, I can see why a class in genetics would go out of date, but a creative writing class or a Shakespear class? Give me a break! When I found out that I would have to take virtually everything over again, I really needed to think hard about why I should do it. I mean, college costs were sky-rocketing. Was it worth the burden of debt I would incur? I was then in my mid to late forties. I had hoped to be out of the Postal Service by forty.
Things became more challenging at home in 2007 when Ann was diagnosed with RA and Sjogrens. It became increasingly challenging for me to contemplate any kind of night time departures from home.
The thing is, most of that stuff can now be done online. Internet schooling is in full swing. So I began thinking about it again. I also did a preliminary search of financing college for people my age but found that nearly all of the opportunities to do so are for women:  Scholarship and Grant Money for Those Over 50 I found that there are ways to save money even for men, like getting a degree through Western Governor's University. Someone also mentioned to me about taking CLEP tests for each subject, which if passed will save thousands of dollars. The traditional student loan route is an option that I'm highly skeptical about doing this late in my life. Too much expense for too little return.
I'm still thinking about it. There are other options for educational experiences that will improve employability. It doesn't have to be a four-year university or even college per se. The magic of a college education doesn't thrill me any more as I see more and more leftist influence at the university level. There are other opportunities to learn skills that I can morph into employment when I finally leave the USPS. I just need to decide if I'm going to devote myself to making it financially as a writer, or take another path and pursue that. Until I make that choice, I will continue writing. It is after all, part of who I am.

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