Over-50 students face atypical experiences

Mark+Lindley%2C+a+first-year+student+and+former+entrepreneurial+professor%2C+is+taking+classes+at+AACC.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Over-50 students face atypical experiences

Mark Lindley, a first-year student and former entrepreneurial professor, is taking classes at AACC.

Mark Lindley, a first-year student and former entrepreneurial professor, is taking classes at AACC.

Photo by Morgan Gordon

Mark Lindley, a first-year student and former entrepreneurial professor, is taking classes at AACC.

Photo by Morgan Gordon

Photo by Morgan Gordon

Mark Lindley, a first-year student and former entrepreneurial professor, is taking classes at AACC.

Catherine O’Reilly, Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






As Dr. Terry Portis sits in his typically quiet office in the Johnson building, he looks out of his high-set windows and can see the red and yellow decaying leaves of the birch tree that hangs over it.

Today is a different sort of day for Portis. Normally his students would sit across from him, laying out their plans and aspirations for school. But today the two guys in his office glare at each other sideways.

Both men had ended up in the hospital because of an on-campus bathroom scuffle that broke out over a woman.

It’s not the first time Portis has had to suspend students, but it was the first time they were 75-year-old men.

These students were banged-up and beaten, but not from each other. One threw out his back during the scuffle, and the other had swollen hands from both arthritis and from a missed punch that landed on the towel dispenser.

Portis, the director of AACC’s Center on Aging, said their experience was not typical. But then again, the experiences of older, returning students usually aren’t.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports 3.8 percent of college students were older than 50 in 2013.

According to Portis, more than 3,800 students older than 50 are enrolled at AACC. These students take classes for a range of reasons, including personal enrichment, certifications and to further career opportunities.

Maryland encourages older students to return to the classroom by providing flat-rate options and, in some cases, waiving tuition.

“In recent years people in their 50s and 60s, or even older, are starting new careers, new endeavors and looking to make a difference like never before,” said Portis.

“To live and to thrive, not just survive these days you have got to get an associate’s degree,” said Faith Round-Tiggett, 57, an employee at the Truxal Library and student.

“[Going back to school] can be done, but it’s a matter of what value you put on it,” said Jane West, a 62-year-old second-semester student. She said life has a tendency to get in the way. “I volunteer, have a house, a child and elderly parents to take care of, but I am fortunate to have a balanced life.”
Many older students bring years of professional experience to the classroom.

“After successfully completing two careers, I wanted to start my own business,” said Jeannette Twigg, a second-year student and 23-year Army Reserve veteran. “Starting over is intimidating, but you have to step out of your comfort zone.”

The 63-year-old is in two entrepreneurial studies courses, which are helping her develop her idea for a discounted wedding service.

For some non-traditional students, taking classes is more about lifelong learning than changing careers.
“If you stop doing and thinking and working with people you might as well lay down in the grass,” said Mary McKiel, a 70-year-old creative writing student with nearly 40 years of federal service. “Being at school has become a priority for me.”

Twigg summed up her college experience: “Whether you’re 19 or 89, be open-minded and don’t judge on appearance. Everyone has something to offer.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email