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Is It Too Late to Go Back to School?

Theresa Schempp
By Theresa Schempp

The average American student attends school for 13 years, from around five to eighteen years of age. Then comes the question of college.

Most students still enroll in two- or four-year institutions right after graduating high school, but the percentage of students choosing this route has declined in recent years.1 Among those who do go straight to college, an increasing number are taking longer to complete their degrees as the six-year completion rate for postsecondary education declines.2

While many think of college students as being 18 to 22 years old, the reality is that the average college student is in their late 20s.3 At University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), the average age of an undergraduate student is 31. Many of our students are older.

Take Mae Beale, for example. In spring of 2022, Beale walked across the UMGC graduation stage at the age of 82 after earning her bachelor’s in business administration. Beale had already spent several years in a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). At UMGC, Beale took one class at a time.

“I wanted to make certain I had the time to devote to whichever class I was taking,” she said. “I was like the tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race.”

Students return to school for all kinds of reasons. For some, it’s simply a personal goal. For others, it’s a way to advance in their current career. Still others want to change careers or transition out of the military.

Having a degree provides a measurable edge in the job market and one that appears to be growing. According to Pew Research, “the unemployment rate is lower for college graduates than for workers without a bachelor’s degree, and that gap widened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.”4 In 2021, workers with a master’s degree earned a median weekly salary of $1,574 and those with a bachelor’s degree earned $1,334, while workers with a high school diploma earned $809.5

The fact of the matter is, no matter a student’s reason for wanting to go back, it’s never too late. The Golden ID program at UMGC provides senior citizens with the opportunity to register for credits without paying tuition. With the growth of online education, working adults can pursue a degree without sacrificing their career and income. In fact, according to U.S. News and World report, 84 percent of online students are employed.6 With no specific times to attend class, online access that requires no commute, and the chance to transfer credits from prior learning, many online students also can finish their degrees faster.

“One of my favorite parts about UMGC is the unique opportunity they offer students at any age,” says Karly Oristian, a success coach at UMGC. “From working adults, military servicemembers, veterans, families and many more, UMGC encourages life-long learning. I enjoy being able to watch students I have grown close with finish their degree and start that next desired stage of their career.”

UMGC is proud to offer an accredited education to adult learners of all ages and to support their specific needs to help them achieve their goals. When you are ready, it’s never too late to go back to school.

1The NCES Fast Facts Tool Provides Quick Answers to Many Education Questions (National Center for Education Statistics).” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. Accessed March 30, 2023.
2Completing College.” National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Accessed March 30, 2023.
3Perception vs. Reality: The Typical College Student.” New America. Accessed March 30, 2023.
4 Schaeffer, Katherine. “10 Facts about Today's College Graduates.” Pew Research Center. April 12, 2022.
5 “Education Pays.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 8, 2022.
6 Friedman, Jordan. “U.S. News Data: The Average Online Bachelor's Student”. U.S. News & World Report. Accessed March 30, 2023.

Reference on this webpage to any third-party entity or product does not constitute or imply endorsement by UMGC nor does it constitute or imply endorsement of UMGC by the third party.