People have all kinds of excuses for not getting a college degree. No time. Cannot afford it. And still others claim that they are too old to take on the challenge of college, which they see as a game for young people. While earlier tends to be better as far as earning and reaping the benefits of a college degree, older graduates teach us something about the real reasons we earn college degrees.

Take Evelyn Malzberg, for instance. This 84-year-old great-grandmother earned her bachelor of arts degree in creative writing in May 2011 from New Jersey City University.

Her story, which was told in this article from the Star-Ledger, is not a short one. It starts with Malzberg giving up on her dreams to attend college because her mother told her, “[N]o man is going to marry a woman who is smarter than him.”

It wasn’t until she’d worked as a secretary, been married, had two kids, and suffered a divorce that she began to take college courses. Slowly but surely, of course.

She would continue to take a few courses a year for the next few decades. According to the article:

“Malzberg, a retired secretary, took one class every semester or so for more than three decades until she had enough credits for a degree. Though she had been a student since before most of her classmates were born, the octogenarian said she never considered giving up.
‘I made a promise to myself that I would be a college graduate,’ Malzberg said.”

If you think four years of classes sounds daunting, consider that Malzberg was taking courses, working toward her degree, for 30 years. Her degree had nothing to do with convenience or maybe even economic advantage. For Melzberg, it was about achieving more with her life. It was about proving to herself that she could do something difficult.

Keep in mind: this grandma wasn’t just going with the flow. She was known as one of the best-prepared students in each of her classes. She struggled with math classes. She loved writing classes and even learned how to play the piano.

Maybe Melzberg’s story is ultimately about the real reasons we get a college education. It’s not to make more money or to have a fancy title. We get college degrees to prove to ourselves that we can do what we set out to do. Once we’ve gained that confidence-whether it’s in four years or forty years-there’s nothing we can’t do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *