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When Higher Education Is Neither: Why Should I Earn a Degree?

Thoughts for adults considering returning to college in 2012.

I recently found myself at a dining table full of accomplished acquaintances, and the conversation wandered to the subject of alma maters.

"Where did you go to college, Michelle?"

I hesitated before answering: "I didn't finish college." Among the highly educated crowd round the table, there were a couple of seconds where I felt like I'd showed up at prom wearing sweats and a bandanna.

The conversation drifted to other topics, but a woman sitting next to me noted my momentary discomfort. "Why don't you go back to school and finish your degree?"

It is a question to which many adults respond in the affirmative each year. Forty-seven percent of new and returning students are 25 or older, according to The Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education. Most adults have packed-full lives, and returning to the classroom means reprioritizing family, work, and church or community commitments. In addition, returning students need to figure out how to pay for school. The cost of higher education ...

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