Please turn on JavaScript

Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: An Example of Age and Educational Success

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Example of Age and Educational Success

Last week, I had a pleasant and useful conversation with an older student who described to me his past and current attempts at earning a BA degree. They sounded typical of a number of MCC’s students so I asked him to briefly describe his efforts.
I have attempted to complete my college degree on three different occasions, my current being my most successful. Right out of high school, my parents sent me to MCC to begin my college journey and my first semester was great, I went to classes and really studied. On my second semester, I realized that my professors did not care if I showed up to class, and there was no one to call my parents and let them know that I was not going. So I began it skip classes and got lured away from college by a full-time job, making what I thought was a lot of money. So my parents gave me an option. Finish College and they would pay for it, or I could quit and I would have to pay for any type of school later on my own. So off into the real world I went.
Fast forward 5 years, and I am now married and we are expecting our first born. Realizing that my full-time job was not going to be able to provide for my wife and child, I went back to school for my second try. This time, I was going to TSTC for computer networking, and this time, I was paying for everything myself. After about a year of schooling, I got a job at a local retail store as a department manager. I thought it over and spoke to my wife and I made a decision to quit school and focus on my career once again.
Now fast forward 10 more years. I have been promoted to a store manager and my career was doing very well. Then at one point I came to a stale mate. I was no longer up for promotions and I was not getting moved any longer. I looked around and tried to figure out what it was that I was doing wrong and I found nothing. What I did find out was that everyone at this level was just as good as me, if not better. We all had the same skill levels. The individuals that were getting promoted did have an advantage over me; they had actually finished their degrees. They all had Bachelors or Master Degrees. So, here we are at my third and final attempt at completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Mgmt. This time is different as I have learned from my previous mistakes. By continuing my college education, I have been able to see the rewards. I have been able to use some of my new found skills in my current role. By demonstrating to my current supervisors my drive and focus, I feel that I will once again be recognized.
Why is this student enjoying more success in his third attempt? Let me suggest a few possible explanations. He is older and older students are more focused. This is not a very satisfying explanation. Does aging cause physical changes that make us better students? Do additional years help us better measure benefits of a degree? During his first attempt at earning a degree, his parents paid the bill. Beginning with his second attempt—earning a computer networking degree for TSTC—he paid his own bills. Have skin in the game may increase effort but the real improvement did not come until his next attempt. His third attempt came after glancing up the corporate ladder and seeing that those above him all had degrees and really were as good as or better than him and that their edge probably came from their educations. Was necessity the mother of educational effort? His parting words of advice to students
Please learn from my mistakes and allow me to save some of you time, stay in school. There is no substitute.


  1. Graduated HS in 1972. College, 1983.

    In 1979 I found an employer who agreed to letting me finish my final year of college after three years of successful service.

    There were several older students, some grad school guys included, who formed my study groups. We worked immediately following class, and I quit study each night at 10. If I needed additional time, I'd wake at 6a.

    Straight A's. Honors, etc. Not only did it mean more, I had real world experience to apply to the data.

    And I paid my way, every step.

  2. Brooks, this is an excellent post. Sometimes it is hard as a student to see beyond the "marginal cost and marginal benefit" of staying in school now versus looking at the long-term payoffs.

  3. Very good post. I moved to U.S. a few years ago, and I went back to college to get my degree in accounting. As an older students I am enjoying very much and appretianting a lot this opportunity to get a degree here. I will see the payoff within 2 years in the company that I am employed by.