Number of older college students growing nationwide - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Number of older college students growing nationwide

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Not every student heading to college this month is fresh out of high school.

More than eight million adults 25-year-old and older are currently enrolled in US higher education institutions, and one study has that number increasing up to 20 percent by 2016.

Wednesday was move-in day at Clarke University. Fresh-faced students bid parents farewell as volunteers moved bedding and boxes into buildings.

Jodi Roeth, however, won't be living in a residence, but she is a student at Clarke University.

"I'm getting my Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree. I'm doing the RN to BSN completion program," she said Wednesday on campus.

Roeth, 50, currently works as a registered nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque. She has been there since 1987, and she now wants to take her education -- and impact -- further.

"I just felt the stars were all aligned," Roeth said. "My kids had graduated from college and are out on their own, so I don't have to worry about them anymore, so I can just worry about me now and thought now's a perfect time to go back."

She joins a growing number of older, working adults flocking to school for a degree.

Scott Schneider is the director of Clarke University's TimeSaver and continuing education programs. He said Clarke is no stranger to this trend.

"More and more people are recognizing that in order to get a new job or be promoted within their current position, they need to have that piece of paper that says they are Bachelor Degree prepared," he said.

Studies show finances are the top concern for non-traditional students. Experts advise those students to not borrow more than they can pay off in 10 years or before they retire, whichever comes first.

"They really do need to take a hard look at their return on investment and the potential for growth once they earn their degree," Schneider said. "We see students who are able to tap into employer-based tuition resources. We see students who are eligible for grant funding. They may need to slow down their progress in order to fit their financial aid package with what they can afford."

Roeth, however, is committed.

"I don't want to have any regrets that I didn't go back and do it," she said.

Studies show certain degrees for older, working adults have a higher return on tuition dollars than others. Those include engineering, IT, business and nursing.

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