Students find advantages to lifelong learning

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Does the job market support college graduates over the age of 50?
In the past five years, there has been an enrollment increase in students from age 51-60 at Central Oregon Community College, according to the most recent Annual Enrollment Report. In 2007, there were 356 students in this group to 2011 when there were 646.
Molly Svendsen
The Broadside
This increase is partially due to employees realizing the advantages of having an extended education, according to Tracy Dula, the career services coordinator at COCC.
“You can never have too much education,” Dula said. “Someone who is going back to school later in life is exhibiting lifelong learning skills.”
Cruz Mueller is one of those students. In winter 2007, she decided to return to school. Mueller had been wanting to return to school for many years, but due to family obligations she couldn’t find the time. After being in a work accident, Mueller made up her mind to start college.
“At first, I was intimidated because I don’t know everything, I started at Math 10 and Writing 60,” Mueller said. “I had students come to me asking for advice because I [was] older and it was intimidating.”
In 2013, Mueller will graduate with a bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Science from Oregon State University-Cascades. Mueller hopes to use her degree to become an advisor for high school or college students.
“I really like school, and hope to eventually go into advising,” Mueller said.
Mueller’s chances look good, according to Dula, who believes that students graduating with a degree later in life will have an equal opportunity of getting a job.
“The chances of being hired is equal for all job seekers in my experience,” Dula said.
Employers look for qualities that would guarantee a well rounded employee, according to Dula.
“In general, employers look for three basic things,” Dula said. “The first would be skills or ability to do the job, the second would be how well you fit into the organization, and the third would be a passion and enthusiasm for the job.”
Older age could even be an advantage in a job search because of the added experience associated with it, according to Dula.
“Age and life experience certainly would work for that advantage,” Dula said.
Mueller believes her life experience will give her an advantage in searching for a job.
“Generally [we] are more experienced over younger people, and experience should count for something,” Mueller said. “From talking to advisors, it is how you’re organized how you present yourself that can get you a job.”Mueller said that her and others in her situation are remaining optimistic about their chances of getting a job with their degrees.
“I am being really positive about my chances of getting a job, I’m really not that concerned,” Mueller said. “Most students who are older and in school that I have talked to are positive about their chances as well.”
There are a lot of skills that Mueller learned because she went back to school later in life.
“I’ve learned about how to be patient with young people,” Mueller said. “We have a lot of great smart young people and it is exciting to see that.”
Mueller’s advice for people considering returning to school when they are older is to stick it out.
“It’s tough, hang in there though, there is a great satisfaction of just getting a degree,” Mueller said. “My grandmother always said, ‘You’re never too old to learn.’”
(Contact: msvendsen@cocc.edu)

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