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Reinventing Your Life with Education: The Larry Crowne Effect

Just like Tom Hanks’ character in the new movie, Larry Crowne, thousands of middle-age Americans each year reinvent themselves by going back to college.  They do it for multiple reasons:  they lost their job, got looked over for a promotion, or just want to start over.

But whatever the reason, getting the best possible education has never been more important than it is right now.  That’s because in today’s world, a good job requires a good education.


In a single generation, the United States has fallen from first place to 12th in global graduation rates for young adults, and the country needs to produce 8 million more college graduates over the next decade in order to compete globally and keep up with other countries that are developing high-tech, high-skill jobs.

The unemployment rate for people who have never gone to college is more than double (10 percent) what it is for those who have gone to college (4.5 percent).  And, during the next 10 years, nearly eight in 10 new jobs will require workforce training or a higher education.

These statistics make it clear that completing some form of higher education is the best tool to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy.

Every day, I see people – people like Larry Crowne – work hard to overcome obstacles to get the education they need to succeed.  Many of them work full time, have aging parents in need of care and attention, or are parents themselves.  Often, they are facing difficult financial realities.  But, they are eager to learn and they persevere because they understand that getting an education will change their lives for the better.  They are reinventing themselves, improving their job prospects, and enriching their understanding of the world around them.

At Bellevue University, many working adults tell us that one of the biggest problems keeping them from getting degrees is time and work commitments.  Many people struggle because they are working to support themselves, they have families or other life commitments that make it difficult to attend regularly scheduled classes.  Our online classes remove that obstacle by allowing working adults anywhere in the country – or the world for that matter – to take classes whenever their schedules allow.
We believe in second chances because we understand that the adults applying to college today have grown up and are more prepared for the challenges ahead.  That’s why we look beyond high school GPAs and take each person’s work and life experiences into account.  Our goal is to give each individual the best possible opportunity to earn a degree.

For those people who have the mindset that college is just not worth the time and money, consider this:   The recession has led to steep job losses across the U.S. work force, but less-educated people have been hit harder than most.  Last year, the pay gap between college graduates and non-graduates reached a record high – four-year-college graduates made 54 percent more, on average, than people who attended college, but did not graduate.

I’ve been lucky enough to witness firsthand the power of education to change lives.  Every year, I meet working adults who have doubts, who are unsure of their destinies, unaware of the abilities they possess.  And, every year, I see those same adults get their college diplomas knowing that they can cast those doubts aside, and do what it is they want to do in life.   Education is the key to unlocking the potential in each of us . . . including Larry Crowne.
Dr. Mary Hawkins has been involved in higher education for more than 30 years and has established herself as a leader and national voice in the educational arena since joining Bellevue University in 1995. Before becoming University President in 2009, Hawkins served as Vice President of Enrollment and Outreach until 2000, when she took over as Provost. Under her leadership, Bellevue University has experienced one of the highest growth rates in the country for non-profit, postsecondary institutions both in enrollment and degrees conferred. Today, Bellevue University is the largest private university in Nebraska and one of the fastest-growing non-profit universities in the country.  The University is a recognized national leader in providing post-secondary education opportunities for working adults and organizations.  For more information, visit








12 Responses to Reinventing Your Life with Education: The Larry Crowne Effect

  1. Champ says:

    Dr Mary , Thanks for the post and lately I understood that going back to college is a good idea. Currently I am looking forward to study and give exam for certification ( last I studied in 1994 ) and now a days companies prefer Post Graduate then Graduate.
    Definately a good education is plus point.


  2. It’s funny to me that most if not all of the wealthy entrepreneurs either dropped out of college or never went. Needing a diploma is necessary for some careers like teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses etc.

    But for others creating revenue streams through personally owned businesses is the way to go. I can’t see spending 20-100k to go to school to only be in debt when we get out.

    Being young is the best time to get involved in entrepreneurism, and the other benefit is being able to create jobs for people who don’t want to be their own boss.

    I do believe that we should be learning and growing our entire life but going into debt to do so isn’t wise.

  3. Clint Cora says:

    It’s incredible how in addition to traditional colleges and universities, there has been an explosion of the career-colleges where courses are 9 to 12 months long. Many of these students are in the mature category.

  4. farouk says:

    great post Dr Mary :)
    personally i believe that knowledge is power, whether it was formal or informal. the most important thing is that the person learns how to find the right knowledge he can use

  5. I believe education is of the greatest importance of our planet. We have the duty to the our current and the next generation to give them the opportunity to provide them the best education possible.

    I’m living in a country where education is of the highest importance and it gives people a comfortable middle class life.

    This is good thing.

    But we also have to stop thinking that college and university is the only way to study. I have noticed that the best teachers are not working for universities, but in private companies world wide. Practical knowledge is more and more powerful in this world.

    But Dr Mary, I cannot agree more: you can reinvent your life with (the proper) education.

    Thanks for shariing!

  6. A higher education is indeed a great benefit. Most people don’t really know what they might like to do when they graduate from High School. It could be very advantageous to wait a few years to go to college. Then when you do go to college you have a better understanding of who you are and what you want. It is reported that up to 50% of college graduates are not working in the field of their degrees after 5 years from graduation.

    Going BACK to school is great.

  7. This is interesting, I wasn’t wanting to see this movie and now I think I will. Once my my clients and I were just talking about this exact subject and about education reform the other day.

  8. After four years of working, I decided to take up a two-year masters course. I took it mainly because I was fed up of work. It was like taking a two-year vacation where I was productively learning and increasing my career marketability while contemplating about what I wanted to do with my life. Studying is much easier when you’re older.

  9. ronni bar says:

    Hey Justin,

    The way I see it, we all study all the time what we can the way we can. It’s true a few of the strong people in today’s economy didn’t get a degree but even though we can all sing, not all of us can win American Idol if you get what I mean. so I think on the one hand for most of us that can it’s best to go to school.

    On the other hand I saw you’re into spiritual growth as I and I do believe it to be the easy way today to change, awake and is kind of the answer in between in order to get answers from yourself what it is you can do or even want.

    Today’s Alternative medicine and science can direct you were you need to go.
    for example because most chances in real life Larry Crowne was so shocked that he lost his job he didn’t have the confidence to move on.

  10. Mados says:

    You make the (typical) mistake of assuming causality from statistics. 

    So there is negative co-variation between unemployment rates and number of graduates, OK. That doesn’t automatically imply that fewer graduates cause the higher unemployment rates. It is quite likely that the recent recession has hurt employment and reduced people’s ability to invest in education in the same time. I understand that education is very expensive in the US.

    That is just one out of many possible explanations.

  11. Mados says:

    Ps. Why is the post tagged Julia Roberts?

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