There was an article in yesterday's New York Times how the recession has pushed older adults back into graduate school and law school, and I was struck at some of the similarities with my own situation.
I loved the story of the awesomely named Prebble Ramswell -- a 37-year-old with two bachelors degrees and 10 years of work experience, who'd just gone back to grad school, all just like me. She was just one of many who is returning to education after being unable to find work.
While I'd been thinking of going to grad school for a while, it wasn't so much the recession that encouraged me to go back -- it was a realization that my life had stalled. I was no longer in public safety, an attempted return to journalism was a non-starter and I needed to get going. Starting an entry-level job somewhere at my age would not be beneficial and I needed a leg up. So grad school it was.
(As an aside, my first semester in the SFSU MPA program is over.The results were good! An "A" in both the Intro (PA700) and Urban Administration (PA780) classes, and an A- in the Policy Making and Implementation (PA715) class. I know I shouldn't feel bad about the A- grade, but having come oh-so-close to the mythical 4.0 GPA, I feel a bit disappointed to have missed it so narrowly. The next semester begins on Jan. 26, with classes in Urban Transportation and Public Sector Budgeting.)
Of course, getting into grad school or law school is no panacea. My wife Claire graduated from law school, passed the bar and got a job only to see it evaporate when the non-profit she worked for recently closed down. She's now trying to find another position and debating what other areas she might be interested in should the law field continue to yield no crops. I (only half-jokingly) told her I'd support her going back to school when she pays off her current law school debts.
Who knows if there will be any positions available when I graduate (especially considering some of the current backlash against "overpaid" public employees)? Maybe that's one reason I'm putting so much into "extracurriculars" right now, like my involvement with SamTrans and the SSF Housing Authority -- a degree is no longer enough. Am I optimistic? Not particularly. But I do know that things are cyclical and there's no reason to be pessimistic in the long term.