I could tell she was trying to conceal that her hands were shaking. That her lips were quivering. That she was likely to break down into a full panic attack if I couldn’t tell her something, anything, to lessen the anxiety.
“I’m pretty sure I’m being laid off in the morning…” she revealed.
She was in her early fifties – too early to retire, but past the age of aggressively pursuing a new career. I got more of the story as our conversation continued. She started this job after high school. The job security, seemingly, was there and she enjoyed the work. She took some time off to have kids and was able to return later. She thought she would retire there. But then the restructuring happened. Her employer needed her to learn more advanced, and current, technological tools. They could hire someone else for less money and better work – and they planned to. She was left her scrambling with no idea how to support herself, help her children, and retain a professional identity.
This isn’t a topic usually discussed in parent-centric sites such as this. But it’s an important one.
See, in my “other life,” I’m a teacher and academic advisor. And this is a genuine moment that left me shook long after it occurred. It’s an upsetting reality that’s not exclusive to any one age-group. Our society and corresponding job market changes so rapidly that it’s near-impossible to keep up. It feels like if you even take the slightest break, you’ll end up left-behind. And when you’re a parent, you often have to – whether it’s by delaying, modifying, or outright abandoning your aspirations. So how do you keep productively moving toward the future while still living, and enjoying, the present?
One major step is to ensure you’ve filled any educational gaps. And I can recommend a place for that – the Upper Bucks (Perkasie) campus of Bucks County Community College.
Now, taking classes at Bucks or another community college is a smart move for many reasons, right?
- It’s Super Affordable. College is an investment in your future. And like any investment, you want to see a return to know it was worth the time and money. For a Bucks County resident, a 3-credit course at Bucks generally runs about $500 (or $900 if you’re a Montgomery, or other, County resident). By comparison, taking one 3-credit course through the College of Liberal Arts at Temple will hit you for about $2,000. Stay in the state system and go to West Chester, you’re still looking at about $1,300. So no matter which way you slice it here, Bucks is a dramatic cost-saving which can add up to major cash down the line – cash that can be used for fun and meaningful stuff to do with your kids. It’s way worth it.
- It’s a Quality Education. I can’t tell you how many students comment that they’ve had better teachers in community colleges than their early years at traditional 4-year schools. Often this happens because professors at Bucks are primarily concerned with instructional quality and student success. Classes are small enough to get the attention you need. Materials are current and relevant.
- They’re Dedicated to Educational Quality and Cost-Savings for Students. Bucks faculty and administrators understand that our students typically juggle school with work, family, and other commitments. They try to capitalize on any way they can save students money while maintaining that equality education. For example, many professors are currently modifying their courses to use Open Educational Resources instead of expensive textbooks. These materials are current, meaningful, and free. It’s a sweet deal!
- You Can Schedule Classes Around Your Life. There’s face-to-face classes running two days a week (in M/W or T/Th blocks) or one day a week evening courses (generally starting at 6:30pm). You can do completely online classes, all while knowing you have access to the “real” professor just a short distance away if you need to see them in-person. Or you can blend the two in a hybrid class where you meet in-person occasionally and do the rest online. Full semester courses run about 15 weeks. If that time commitment is too long, there’s other options for 12 and 6 week sections throughout the year (yes, winter and summer too). So whether it’s fitting classes in around work or your kid’s schedules, there’s ways to make it work.
- There’s Ample Resources to Plan Your Future. Bucks has a ton of resources that are completely free for students. The Academic Success Center provides free one-on-one tutoring in a ton of subjects. You can meet face-to-face or virtually. You’ll touch base with an advisor each semester to help plan your classes, so you don’t have to worry about just “taking random classes that won’t count for anything.” Career Services can help you write a resume. Transfer Services can help plot out your transfer plans to that Bachelor’s program if needed. And that’s just a few. The support is there.
The Upper Bucks campus provides all of the above – and more. Here are the things I love about it:
- It’s Easy to Park. Because Perkasie is a smaller campus, you don’t have to deal with a 30 minute trek across campus to get to class. Designated student lots are right by the building. It saves you time. And for parents, every minute counts!
- It’s Light, Bright, and Clean – especially the North building which was recently built. Sunlight flows in during the day. The back of campus overlooks a walking trail, providing a sense of natural zen to the environment. The South building is undergoing renovations too.
- There’s Places for Community and Solitude. A common area connects the North and South Buildings. This place fills up with students during the day and in that hour before evening classes begin. You can sit with a group, or off by yourself without feeling anti-social. There’s a few computers around to check messages and submit assignments. Around the campus, you’ll find tables for groups and spots for individuals to hang.
- There’s Food. Like real food. And coffee. It’s important. Enough said.
- The Campus Staff is Incredible. You can get the support you need, close to home. Throughout the year, you can get academic advising from someone in the office – you don’t have to exclusively wait for your assigned advisor. And they want to help you. Rodney Altemose (Executive Director) and Patti McEnery (Assistant Director) are both highly knowledgeable individuals (Trust me, they’ve always answered every random, complicated question I’ve had!) who are unbelievably invested in the success of their students. And it’s not just them. The rest of the staff is great too. It really puts you at ease to know things are taken care of here.
- The Location is Convenient. If you live in the Upper Bucks county area, it gives you what you need closer to home. Sometimes that’s what you need to pursue your educational goal.
- And lastly my favorite: there’s a diverse student body. I absolutely LOVE how in one class you get students from all walks of life. Ages run the gamut. There’s students fresh out of high school, students five-ish years out from HS who now feel ready to “go back,” all the way to students in their forties and fifties who are changing careers or just want to “go back” and improve on skills they’ve lost over the years. There’s parents who have young kids now and others whose children have grown. There’s parents who delayed their education because of their kids. There’s veterans. There’s nurses and workers who just got off the night shift and come in for an 8am class. There’s full-time and part-timers. Students have just about every job under the sun. I’ve served as my students references for jobs and apartments. I’ve also written recommendations for the University of Pennsylvania. There truly is a great variety here. It brings great depth to the classroom. It allows you to meet people, and forge connections, you maybe never could have otherwise. And who knows how those small things could help you in the future?
While I still get a little sad thinking about the trembling woman I met that winter day, my mood is lifted by the thought of future possibilities she could have gotten at Bucks. Thankfully, I was able to make her feel slightly better that day because I could offer a lot of ways that Bucks could help her learn what she needed to compete. I’m not sure what she decided. And I really hope she didn’t lose her job the next day. But I wish her, like I wish every student (past, current, and future) the very best. And if you have educational gaps in need of filling, I hope you give this campus serious consideration in your journey.
If you, or anyone else, wants to attend Bucks – it begins with a quick, free, application. Learn more here!