The bell may ring at the end of the day, but school isn’t out until you say it is. While the typical college student age ranges from 18-24 years, an increasing number of older students are returning to class. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that this subset of learners (here defined as anyone over the age of thirty-five) will comprise roughly 43% of college attendees by 2020.
If that number doesn’t impress you, it should. Researchers have crunched the numbers: 43% of college attendees evens out to 9.6 million older students.
There’s no doubt – adults are returning to school in droves. It’s easier than ever for a person to shift or develop their career focus through part-time, night, or online courses. For entrepreneurs who have dropped previous jobs in favor of starting their own business, the option of returning to school may seem tempting. But then the question becomes: Which entrepreneurs benefit from walking back into class?
The answer is tricky.
On the one hand, a return to education could be tremendously useful for someone bogged down in a business downturn, or even for an established entrepreneur looking to shake up a tired system. As Lisa Evans writes in an article for the Entrepreneur, seasoned business owners who take classes leave school able to meld their lived business experience with theory. Their new knowledge base will allow them to extrapolate beyond individual experiences, and develop better plans and structures for the business as it moves forward. Moreover, the classroom itself is a useful environment to find constructive criticism on ideas and to network.
That said, development isn’t simply limited to ideas; well-established entrepreneurs can use the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the current technological landscape. As Emily Kate Pope writes in her leadership management blog: “As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to use the latest and most effective technology and tactics to run your company. Refusing to stay up-to-date puts you and your business at risk of becoming outdated or ineffective.” Without giving proper attention to tech norms, a well-off business can find itself in organizational chaos. In this case, a return to class might be just what the business needs to realign itself with current trends.
The decision to returning to school as an aspiring (or settled!) business owner is entirely dependent on personal circumstances. If you’re midway through implementing a business plan and seem to be gathering momentum, taking time off for school might be more of a roadblock than a ramp up. This is especially the case if you currently face financial problems and would struggle to pay for classes. If a business model seems to be working, the best choice might be to stick with it and adapt to issues as they come.
Time, as much as capital, is an investment, and you have to use it well.
Trevor Marca is an entrepreneur and marketing professional who specializes in bolstering community ties through print and digital media. For more on Trevor, visit his website.