Age doesn't matter; follow your bliss!
Veni, Puer, disce sapere! (Latin - Come, Boy, learn to be wise.)
For non-trads, the question is often not whether we should come seek wisdom (higher education), but how far we plan to go in the time remaining to us.
By the time this article goes to print (went to print), I will have "celebrated" another birthday. At my age, many traditional students are well into their careers, perhaps receiving raises and other perks for successful employment histories. I still have years (and many commuter miles) to go before graduation and won't enter the workforce until several years from now.
Furthermore, I'm still considering several career options, including the pursuit of a masters or doctorate. I could delay my income-producing years for as much as six years longer, which would mean I'd have approximately twenty-five years to build for a retirement nest egg and help my children through their college educations.
I'm lucky! In twenty-five years, given the right profession and financial decisions, I may be able to achieve my goals. But, what about the person who enters college for the first time at age fifty? Should they even consider a masters? What about sixty? A doctorate?
Many people would say that a graduate program is wasted on someone with few years left for a career. Looking at the situation from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, I'd have to agree. A doctorate is not going to financially serve a sixty-year-old student as well as it would serve a thirty-year-old.
Set aside money for a moment. (I know that's hard to do, but you can always pick it up again after reading my column.) Assume for a moment that knowledge has value in addition to the wealth it can bring. I have read a study showing that an active mind, one that continues learning throughout adulthood, is less likely to suffer the ravages of Alzheimers (Skolnick, JAMA, 1992). Males, in particular, who practice memorizing (an activity often encouraged by professors) are more able to remember important data as they continue to age (Discovery Channel, TV, 1994).
If slowing the process of aging is not enough reason to educate older students, let's consider some other benefits. Earning a degree gives the student a higher self-esteem (College 100 Handbook, PSC, 1994), provides the student with a better understanding of the world and more solutions to problems that they may encounter (My father says so, Branson, 1995). College-educated people are likely to be more open-minded toward their children, have a greater awareness of political issues and are usually healthier than their less-educated age peers (ask any college student, here, now!).
The best reason, however, is a step beyond these tangible observances. Personal fulfillment, following one's "bliss," is worth more than all the golden cadillacs in the world! (Are there any, really? I think it's a myth.) Okay, so my attitude is idealistic. But, consider for a moment, if you're not planning to improve yourself, why are YOU here?
(Images from free sources online.)