Adult Student Population Growing

Traditional students, beware! You are not alone. According to the Adult Services office, adults constitute 40 percent of Bethel's enrollment. Maybe you've seen the older students on campus. They hobble around in their orthopedic shoes, support hose holding their legs together, toupees camouflage bald spots and wrinkles criss-cross their faces, forming visual maps of their lives.

Then again, maybe not. The average adult student is 40 years of age, much too young to be shopping for Hoverounds. Many non-traditional students are married, raising children, and working a full-time job. So why return to college and add to an already busy schedule?

Writing major, June Bails, tackles classes because she "didn't go to college after high school and spent 20 years regretting it."  A mother of teens and successful career woman, Bails works hard to balance her busy schedule, but to her, pursuing an education is a worthy goal.

Other adult students come to Bethel on the brink of a major life change. After Kathy Sybert's children had grown, she needed new direction for her life. Majoring in Biblical Literature and ASL Interpreting, Sybert takes a full load of classes during the day, which places her in classes with traditional students. Many adults would be intimidated by these circumstances, but Sybert has adapted.

"The (traditional) students have accepted me," Sybert says with a smile. Her daughter, freshman Beth Sybert, also attends Bethel, which may account for Kathy Sybert's ease with a younger generation.

Mary Blend moved to this area when her husband, a pastor, applied for a job in Michiana. Blend enrolled in classes and found a wonderful community of friends. Despite the fact that for her the classes are hard because of learning disabilities, she really enjoys college.

Regardless of the circumstances that bring adults to the campus, tackling college classes during midlife requires dedication and commitment. The next time you see the old folks shuffling between classrooms, give them a smile and a warm hello. They deserve some admiration.