Education Without an Age Limit: Older Students Returning to College

Faye Hicks is one of the many students in higher education looking to obtain a degree many years after their high school graduation. Photo courtesy of Faye Hicks.

Faye Hicks is one of the many students in higher education looking to obtain a degree many years after their high school graduation. Photo courtesy of Faye Hicks.

Sofia Torio , Contributing Writer

Obtaining a college education and a degree is an accomplishment that many students value. Whether the individual is expected to go to college or made the independent decision to enroll, every Pace student has a reason to be where they are. For many students, the time to go to college was straight after high school, but for some, that is not the case.

Some current students made the decision to obtain their degrees later in their lives.

Faye Hicks, a communications major, graduated from high school in 1979. Straight out of her secondary education, Hicks married her high school sweetheart and worked a full-time job and the year after they married, she had her first son. Although things were working out for Hicks and her family, the company she had been working for eventually closed down and she was forced to find a new job which required a degree.

“Looking back to getting into another company, they required a degree,” Hicks, a mother of three, said. “Actually, I tried a few times doing it without the degree and you know, I kept hearing, ‘you need a bachelor’s, you need a bachelor’s’ so I decided to look into it and I went to Westchester Community College (WCC) in 2013.”

Hicks valued her education and did what she could with her time to take her classes, but then, tragedy struck. 

“While I went [to WCC] for the first semester, I went at night, took five classes, and then my mother got sick,” Hicks began,and she was terminal, and I dropped out and I took care of her and she died six months later.”

The passing of her mother was devastating alone, but what made it even more difficult for Hicks was it triggered memories of her oldest son’s death 20 years ago. Hicks found her 17-year-old son dead on her living room floor of an accidental gunshot wound at the hands of his best friend.

She described both events as very traumatizing, and as she attempted to cope with her mother’s death, she questioned whether or not she could return to school.

“After [my mom] passed, I didn’t know if I had it in me to return,” Hicks began. “But I managed to push through, graduate with honors [in May 2017], and go straight to Pace.”

Hicks, now a student in her 50’s, is excited to receive her degree next May. With her own children and grandchildren having or seeking degrees, and herself now working to have one of her own, Hicks understands the importance of receiving a college education and takes pride in her accomplishment, setting an example for her family.

“For me, it’s an accomplishment,” Hicks states, “when I said I was going [to college], they were excited and I made the honor roll in WCC and here as well, so now when they see that, my granddaughter said that when they asked her about perseverance, she said she thought of her grandmother.” 

“Everyday, I think about giving up, but know that I have to keep pushing and lead by example,” she continued. “Never give up, it’s never too late.”

Using the experience she has already obtained in the field, Hicks plans to use her degree to open up her own event design company. 

“That’s the driving force for me, is to start my own business,” Hicks says, “it’s a little late right now but I want to start my own business.”

Like Hicks, Sharee Quinn is another Pace student who decided to get her degree at a later point in life. Quinn is enrolled in applied psychology, transitioning to earn a BS in liberal arts transfer degree.

Quinn did not get get a chance to graduate from high school, but at 28, she completed her GED in a program in New York City.

According to Quinn, where she was from, in the early 2000’s, most students were going to trade schools and a lot of the jobs at that time only required a high school diploma. She did not have any major priorities that took place over her education, but her one regret was not finishing high school.

Quinn, now 35 years old, decided to start receiving her college education at WCC and then transferred to Pace to finish.

“After receiving my GED, which qualified me to attend college, I decided I wanted to become a social worker and focused on education,” Quinn said. “So I enrolled in Westchester Community College and received an A.A.S. Human Services and now I am here at Pace University to get an undergraduate degree.”

Quinn values her education and is happy to be receiving the education necessary to earn her degree for her future.

“A college education is very important to me and I really take my studies seriously and I am always trying to encourage others to go back to school or go to college straight out of high school,” Quinn said. “Actually, I have a daughter in high school that wants to be a teacher so I strive to do everything to keep her on track and prepare her to go to college in a few years.”

Both Hicks and Quinn are students who have shown their passion for education and their determination to succeed. Although they did not pursue their education straight out of high school as most students enrolled in Pace have, they want to let others know that there is no time limit as to when you can get an education or finish school.

“It’s never too late to follow your dreams,” Quinn says, “I believe learning is the key to success and has no age limit, so remember every day we arise, there’s a chance to go back school and learn something new. My motto is ‘I am one step closer to my dreams of becoming a social worker and striving to make change in the world.’”

Hicks understands that students are not always ready for college straight out of high school and has realized that college now is different from college during the year she graduated high school, but still encourages all to go as early as they can if given the opportunity.

“It’s a lot harder now to come back, but it’s never too late to finish” Hicks says, “if I could say anything, I would say do it now, it’s just maybe three or four years and you could go back later if you want but at least get your bachelor’s, I think that’s important.”