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Posted: June 13, 2013 9:16 p.m.

The nontraditional student

Adults re-enroll in college later in life

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Two plus two doesn’t equal four anymore. At least that’s what Susan Hale, a nontraditional college student, believes now that she has gone back to school to finish her college degree with hopes of becoming a dental hygienist.

The 46-year-old student, like many others, are gathering up their No. 2 pencils and notebooks, and heading back to finish their education at colleges and universities.

Hale, who currently works full time in the court system at the Newton County Public Defender’s Office, said she started school last year in the fall at Georgia Perimeter College, and is majoring in dental hygiene.

Hale graduated from Jasper County Comprehensive High School in Monticello in 1985 and then continued her education at then Georgia College, now known as Georgia College and State University. However, for no real reason, she decided to take a break.

The break lasted for nearly 30 years, but after a rocky economy and other contributing factors, Hale said it was time for her to go back to school.

“I wanted to further my education and there are just too many opportunities right now,” Hale said.

Her son Blake, 23, graduated from Valdosta State University in May and she said it would have been nice to have attended college along with her son.

“We could have been in college at the same time and graduated together,” she said. “I have been out of school for so long and it takes a lot to get back into it and having him as a support system would have helped.”

Hale said though it has been very difficult to work full time and attend school full time, she was pleased with her decision. She hasn’t yet decided on where she will continue her college career, but said she’s looking into finishing up at Clayton State University.

“I’m excited. It’s really neat to say that I am 46 years old and I’m back in school changing and starting over,” she said.

Husband and wife Justin and Alison Mullinax have a similar story, also deciding to continue their education after the traditional age.

Justin Mullinax, 33, left school his junior year of high school in 1998. However, he received his GED two years later. He pursued a career in automotive painting and worked in an automotive shop, but the economy forced the shop to close, and at the same time, Alison was laid off from her job.

With a newborn son, Alison, 29, returned to school to pursue a master’s degree is school counseling and clinical mental health counseling, while Justin took a job at Walmart to help the family make ends meet.

However, when Alison became pregnant with the couples’ second son last year, he decided to start his college career. He began at Georgia Perimeter College in summer 2012 after being out of school for 14 years, and recently finished his first year of college.

With two children, ages 3 and 18 months, a diagnosis of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, which has required Justin to have two surgeries over the past six months, and a part-time job, he has been an excelling student during his first year of college.

He maintained a 3.85 GPA and was inducted to the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for his grades. Justin said he continued his education because he wanted to set an example for his two sons that if he can do it, then so could they. Justin plans to get a bachelor’s degree in the medical field.

Shannon Morgan, 36, who has worked full time as a teacher at Rocky Plains Elementary and will now teach at Middle Ridge, is working toward obtaining her doctorate degree online through Northcentral University, an accredited university based in Prescott Valley, Ariz.

Morgan is a single-mother, with sons, 13 and 12, in public school and participate in sports. Morgan said it’s tough trying to juggle her boys to and from football and baseball, complete her school assignments and work as a full-time teacher.

“It’s definitely been a challenge with it just being me,” Morgan said. “I have no family. It’s just me trying to raise them on my own and get my school work done. It’s very hard; it’s very little sleep and very little time for myself.”

Morgan said she started at Clayton State University, after she graduated from Heritage High. She received an associate’s degree and took time off. However, she returned to college attending Mercer University and has since received a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and an education specialist’s degree.

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