Businesswoman Standing In Front Of Opened Door. Choice And Opportunity Concept

Working Adults Need A College That Believes In Them 

In last week’s New York Times, writer Rachel Louise Snyder wrote a moving and heartfelt column about how much she needed to go to college to succeed … and how the only way she was able to go to college was because someone took a chance on her.

By high school, Snyder was a troubled child. She was frequently truant, often suspended, got into fights, and experienced substance abuse challenges. Her mother had died when she was eight years old, her father had quickly remarried and moved across the country, and her environment was abusive.

She was also intelligent and capable and hard working. She jumped from job to job and was good at them. But what did that matter? No one with her record was going to be accepted into college.

“What ultimately saved me,” she wrote, “was the willingness of one man, who happened to be a college-admissions officer, to see me as a person — not as a subpar transcript or a series of boxes left unticked but as a complicated human who’d had very few opportunities and a lot of bad luck and who had made a series of regrettable decisions but might make something of her life nonetheless.”

She didn’t get into a big, prestigious college. It was “a tiny school in a far western suburb of Chicago.” But she got there, and it opened doors and changed her life. 

Synder’s column is a call for more institutions to take chances on young people, and a sobering reminder that fewer and fewer institutions are willing to take chances on people at all. She wrote:

“(T)here are fewer opportunities today, whether through college or work, for the million-plus kids out there … I worry that there are fewer adults willing to take those all-important chances on those of us the world today seems to have so little time and attention for. College is hard. And expensive. And what university wants to accept a kid like me who might bring down its all-important rankings?”

Snyder is absolutely right. More institutions should be willing to take a chance on kids like her. In higher education and in life. But we should go farther, because in today’s world it’s not just about kids.

Everybody needs someone to take a chance on them.

It’s not just troubled kids: There are millions of adults without college degrees who are hard working,  intelligent and capable, and who are stuck in dead-end jobs or unemployed because they can’t access the college education they need to succeed in today’s workforce.

They need someone to take a chance on them, too.

Organizations like Calbright and Opportunity@Work have shown that there are plenty of working adults who have the skills they need to move on to better, more prosperous careers, but who are held back by “The Paper Ceiling” which says that a college degree is required to get these kinds of jobs. At the same time, most adults don’t have the money or time to go back to college.  

They can succeed. They just need somebody to take a chance on them. A chance that many of them have more than earned.

Calbright provides that chance. 

We accept every adult Californian with a high school degree or equivalent. So that everyone who’s willing to put in the work can get a chance. 

We don’t charge tuition and we offer laptops and hotspots at no cost. We are a free online community college that takes the risk out of higher education but leaves the rewards intact. 

We are flexibly paced and designed to meet students where they are, accommodating their lives, instead of forcing them to fit their lives into their education. 

We believe there are hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people like Rachel Louis Snyder out there, who are capable of having a better future, and making their communities better, if they can get access to the education they need. If someone takes a chance on them. 

It’s not, in the end, a difficult call to make. We believe in people who want to build a better life.

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