Back to school

One of my favorite films of the 1980s is the one where Thornton Melon (aka Rodney Dangerfield) decides to go “Back to School,” and enroll at his discouraged son’s college. The movie featured many memorably funny scenes, including this exchange between father and son:

Thornton Melon: Boy, what a great-looking place. When I used to dream about going to college, this is the way I always pictured it.

Jason Melon: Wait a minute. When did you dream about going to college?

Thornton Melon: When I used to fall asleep in high school.

IU Bloomington has its fair share of dreamers, who, thankfully, are much more serious about their studies than Mr. Melon. They include approximately 1,000 nontraditional undergraduate students (age 25 and older) who make up an important cohort of the campus’ population: adult learners seeking to better their lives through higher education.

These students recently received some good news when it was announced that the Bernard Osher Foundation had awarded IU Bloomington a $1 million endowment and a $50,000 grant to support a scholarship program for adult learners who are completing baccalaureate degrees. The endowment will provide a more permanent funding source for the Osher Reentry Scholarship program, which, since 2009, has awarded funding to more than 66 students, many of whom are striving to balance work, family and community service obligations while pursuing their degrees.

“As a single parent, having the opportunity to go to college so late in life has truly been a blessing,” said Osher Scholar Lisa Carter, a sociology major, in an IU news release. “And it is with much gratitude that I will finally achieve my dream of being a college graduate in May 2013.”

Recipients of the 2010-11 Osher Reentry Scholarships

The Osher endowment, which will be managed by the IU Foundation, will fund a minimum of 20 scholarships each year for adults who’ve experienced an interruption of at least five years in their formal education and intend to be a part of the workforce once they’ve completed their degrees. The program provides $1,500 to 3,000 scholarships to assist students with tuition costs and help offset their other financial obligations.

This type of support is especially significant here in Indiana, which is seeking to increase the number of adults with baccalaureate degrees and ensure that students graduate on time, with less debt and ready to make major contributions in their communities.

It’s also the type of support that makes individual dreams possible, a fact that IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel, who expressed the university’s gratitude to the Oshers for their generosity, knows extremely well. Her father enlisted in the military at a young age and served until he was in his 50s. After retiring from the service, he enrolled at Auburn University at the same time Lauren and her sister were studying there. He and his daughters were in classes together, and they often shared books. To this day, Lauren keeps his diploma in her office to remind her of the extraordinary possibilities that going “back to school” can afford.


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