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Back in School Decades Later

Updated: Sep 2

Getting a degree or certificate in retirement or later in life can have its advantages.


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by: Alina Tugend

September 2, 2020


The stories about older adults going back to school usually focus on people like Jim Kruger, a college dropout who, after retirement, worked his way up from a community college to a master’s degree in public policy and now at the age of 71 is on track to receive his doctorate by his next birthday.


The environment today presents substantially more choice than we saw a decade ago


Kruger’s experience is inspiring but not necessarily typical of returning learners, who increasingly have lots of options besides traditional degrees, such as certificate programs for specific skills.


“The environment today presents substantially more choice than we saw a decade ago,” says Rovy Branon, vice provost for the University of Washington Continuum College, which includes professional and continuing education. “The right education increasingly depends on the individual. For some, a graduate degree is the perfect accelerator into a final act of one’s career. On the other hand, certificates from reputable institutions can provide a shorter path to signal new and ongoing skills development.”


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