Graduation at 55: The 26-Year Journey for a College Diploma


Alexis Nieman.

Maureen Colgan began college in 1993, but will graduate this semester with a Liberal Arts degree.

Alexis Nieman, Media Editor

At this point in the spring semester, most students who are about to receive their diplomas are either daydreaming of graduation—or terrified of what comes after it. Maureen Colgan, for one, could not be happier to finally finish the 26-year journey of her college education.

Colgan, who just turned 55 this past Thursday, will be graduating from Pace in May with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts. She currently works as a Staff Assistant in the English and Modern Language Studies department in Choate House. Colgan began her journey of pursuing a college education back in 1993 at 29 years old. 

“After high school, I went straight to work at the age of 18,” Colgan said. “I had a job at Verizon offered sabbatical courses to pay for college. I took every class I could take. My husband told me ‘You have to take this opportunity.’” 

After about three years of taking courses, Colgan had to take a slight detour on her path to graduation after becoming pregnant with her first child.

“I thought I would finish school, but my second [and] then third child came along and I was a full-time mom,” Colgan said.

Today, her oldest child is a recent graduate from Stony Brook University, her middle child is pursuing a junior hockey program in Canada, and her youngest is still in high school. With all of her children growing older and getting their educations, Colgan decided to finish getting her degree when she began working at Pace in 2016.

“Before this, I was a [teacher’s assistant] in a special education classroom, I wanted a change but I didn’t know what,” Colgan said. “I found this job at Pace and I got it. I love this job, I love who I work for and who I work with.”

Time management is an important aspect of college courses for any student, and it’s no different for Colgan. Going back to school meant learning how to balance family, work, and attending and studying for classes. She started by only taking one or two courses at a time.

“Mid-semester, once or twice, I had a fleeting thought of ‘How am I going to do all of this?’” Colgan admitted. “With my job, family and everything. What I’ve learned is I need to study every night. I would start reviewing every night three weeks before tests, and it worked.”

As a busy parent, one may assume the 55-year-old would stack her schedule with online courses. Colgan, however, says she prefers being in class surrounded by students rather than online.

“Online is not for me,” she said. “I need the interaction, I love being in the classroom with kids,” Colgan said. “And every single class I have taken I have loved.”

The final three credits of Colgan’s college career will be completed in May with the women’s studies course, Introduction into Queer Studies.

“I’m ridiculously excited to finally graduate,” she said. “It’s a weird feeling. I feel proud and satisfied. I just needed to do it for me, to finish school and to show my kids that if you start something you have to finish it. I did it for no one else but me.”