Older students are returning to college in large numbers

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By Charles Wagner / Special to Viewpoints

By Charles Wagner / Special to Viewpoints

Many adults are returning to college in numbers at Riverside City College, and many are aiming to get that elusive degree or improve existing skills.

The RCC campus shows evidence of a growing national trend: Adults, who are out of school for several years, are returning with more dedication to achieve academic excellence.

The economy might be a prime motivating factor in adults giving college another try or enrolling for the first time.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics over 14 million people are unemployed to date with the nationwide average at 9.2 percent.

The situation is even worse for minorities, with African-Americans making up 16.2 percent among the unemployed and Hispanics at 11.2 percent.

New skills are needed for many to even have a chance at competing for jobs when more and more employers are requiring degrees or advanced skills for consideration.

Those without academic credentials are at a serious disadvantage. Many people see no choice but to return to school if they plan on remaining relevant in the job market.

Financial aid has been an invaluable resource to many returning adults, which, without the financial aid, going back to college is not possible.

Most returning students are surprised by the amount of resources available.

Each year vast amounts of resources go unclaimed as many students are uninformed about the availability of these programs.

Out of school for 10 years, RCC student Adesina Ware, 32, of Rancho Cucamonga, is a mother of two and a business woman running a successful catering company. She has a B.A. in psychology, a minor in religious studies and a master’s in business.

“When I was younger I really didn’t appreciate college in my rush to graduate, but now that I’m older I am able to just sit still and enjoy the experience,” Adesina said. “I’m excited to continue my studies and take advantage of every opportunity.”

Adesina said she loves to learn and is pursuing a doctorate’s degree anthropology.

Returning student Shaun Dwyer, 36, who served in the Navy for 13 years expressed a similar sentiment after going back to school following a 16-year layoff.

“Coming back to school at an older age, you appreciate it more because you have already been in the real world and you know how much you need a degree to succeed,” Dwyer said. “My best advice to adults considering a return is to find out what you really want to do and push for it.”

Dwyer said his brother was one of the lucky few to land a career straight out of high school but he also said that rarely happens today.

Micheal Zammarripa, 27, father of two, of Riverside, had been out of school since 2002. He decided to return to school with aims of making a change in his life. His goal is to attain a degree and set a good example for his kids to follow.

“I was getting tired of where I was working. I knew it was time for big changes,” Zammaripa said. “The best piece of advice I can give to people thinking of coming back is to set goals and work on them daily.”

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