Working mothers returning to college? The concept seems, well, kinda nuts. But if you’ve ever dreamed about it (though you probably dismissed it before you woke up), you should know it’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. Since the 1980s, women’s enrollment in higher education institutions has almost doubled, to nearly 12 million, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. And more than 60 percent of online students today are women, the majority of them over age 25, says the American Association of University Women.
In today’s economy and job market, many working moms see going back to school as a necessary step to greater pay and career advancement, says mom of three Mary Davis, a former college academic advisor and founder of the online resource thecollegemom.com. “Women don’t want to be underemployed or stuck in jobs below their skill set,” she explains. “Some seek further education in hopes of obtaining a fulfilling position that will also help them meet financial and family obligations.” Others are simply looking for personal enrichment—something we richly deserve, don’t you think?
Even though schools, both on the ground and online, have made taking classes and attaining degrees more flexible, we know the thought of taking time to study can still seem too improbable, too hard—or too guilt inducing. So how about a little inspiration? We found three hardworking moms who took the time to go back to school, and each reaped all kinds of rewards. Read their stories, and get ready to hop on the yellow bus!
Jessica Brayden, 38; Danvers, MA; executive director of RESPOND, a nonprofit intent on ending domestic violence; daughter Victoria, 18
Course of study: BA at a traditional four-year state college; executive MBA at a college, via traditional and online coursework
Financing: Primarily student loans
Up the Career Ladder
Jessica Brayden always wanted a career. The first in her family to attend college, the Danvers, MA, mom was 18 when she signed on to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) to study for a career in marine transportation.