Boomers enroll in college -- drop out, too

The number of boomers enrolling in college has

The number of boomers enrolling in college has been increasing over the past decade, according to the federal National Center for Education Statistics. (Credit: iStock)

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For many in the Me Generation, it's all about U.

The number of boomers enrolling in college has been increasing over the past decade, according to the federal National Center for Education Statistics.

The reasons boomers return to school are varied. For some, it's necessary to get a better job. For others, it's about personal achievement or satisfaction. Some just want to expand their intellectual horizons. Yet boomers have one thing in common with their younger classmates: a high dropout rate.

There are no firm statistics on dropout rates by age groups, but the number of boomers who don't complete their degree program is believed to be about 50 percent. That's the same as the rest of the population, according to the Apollo Research Institute, an arm of for-profit college operator Apollo Group Inc.

A new study from the institute titled "Graduate or Drop Out? Factors Affecting College Degree Completion of Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial Students," is among the first to examine how the pressures of school affect the generations differently. The good news for boomers is that they have the tools to handle the pressures of college, once they know what to expect.

"When it comes to taking challenges in stride, boomers appear to be better equipped than the other generations," says Caroline Molina-Ray, the Apollo Research Institute's executive director of research.

The study showed that while every generation has several school-related concerns, boomers worry about them less than younger students. Boomers indicated that they receive support from faculty members at a much higher rate than their younger counterparts, perhaps because boomers and many of their teachers are near the same age. And of all the age groups, boomers were best at forging relationships with fellow classmates.

For boomers who have returned to school this fall after years away from the classroom, Molina-Ray offers this advice: Have a clear purpose of why you are there. "Going back to school is like any kind of life change," she says. "It requires an investment of your time, your energy, your resources." While partying until dawn probably won't be part of your college agenda, there may still be commitments to children or elderly parents, so you will have to schedule class and study time accordingly.

"Maturity may be your biggest advantage," Molina-Ray says. "Use your life experience to help you get through the challenges that you'll face."

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