Heading Back to College

Universities are doing more than ever to attract older students.

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But Williams kept calling back and finally finished her GED. She moved on to community college to study restaurant management and opened her restaurant in September. Now, at 62, not only is she mentoring other adult students but she's contemplating signing up for an accounting class so that she'll be sure to understand her costs and profits. "I don't want to sit around and wait to go. I want to make money, and I want to do what I enjoy doing. I enjoy cooking," she says. "And I love fish."

Brenda Dann-Messier, president of Dorcas Place, the Providence, R.I., agency that helped Williams get her GED, associate's degree, and business loans, says that while her agency still has waiting lists of older adults wanting more education, its services are improving. A decade ago, Dorcas Place offered classes during the workday only and focused on young welfare moms. Now, Dorcas Place is beefing up its evening classes. And, thanks to rising corporate donations, it is expanding services for older workers. "It is beginning to change," she says.

Gridiron hero. But even without help, thousands of boomers say it is worth plenty of mental, physical, and financial sacrifice to return to school. Perhaps no boomer has worked harder than Flynt, a former athletic coach and inventor of an exercise machine who re-enrolled at his alma mater, Sul Ross State University, so he could try to make it back onto the football team he'd gotten kicked off of in the 1970s.

Pursuing that dream has hurt everything from his bank account to his hamstrings. "I've put everything on hold in my life to do this, much to the chagrin of my bill collectors," he says. "When you're 19 and your ligaments are a little sore, in a couple days you're healed. When you're 59, in a couple days you're still sore."

But his age also has its advantages at school. Now that he does homework assignments on time and doesn't spend all night partying, "I'm a better student than I was. I'm making all A's."

And he's succeeding on the field as well. In triple overtime, in an October 13 game against Texas Lutheran, the coach sent Flynt in as a blocking back for a game-winning field goal attempt. "I blocked my man. I looked over my shoulder," and the sound of the crowd dimmed as the ball flew through the uprights. "It was beyond amazing."

Such victories, and his courses on business and health, will help him for decades to come, since he has no plans to retire. His 82-year-old mother, Flynt notes, is managing a Wal-Mart. He and his fellow baby boomers "are going to go to the grave kicking and screaming." And, apparently, studying.