The pursuit of education, from earning a high school diploma to graduating college, is never an easy endeavor, especially for re-engaging students and nontraditional learners. A multitude of factors can affect the education attainment levels of someone struggling to go to or stay in school, including family life, social influences, unsupportive toxic surroundings, misguided direction, and lack of awareness of alternatives.

The responsibility to keep students in school falls on our academic communities. Here are three rebuttals educators can use for responding to those who question returning to high school, completing high school, enrolling in college and the educational system as a whole.

"I don't have a high school diploma."

It's not uncommon for many high school dropouts to eventually reach a point in their lives when they regret dropping out, and want more academically or professionally. Typically, the only thing holding them back from starting over is a high school diploma earned through a high school completion program or even high school equivalency (HSE) certification such as a GED.

George, a 23-year-old who completed Penn Foster's High School completion program through the Institute of Technology (IOT), dropped out of high school when he was 16. Boredom at school drove him to abandon his education to start working instead. Looking back, he calls it his "biggest mistake." Years later, as a father to his 9-month-old son, George decided it was "high time to make some changes." George went back to school, earned his high school diploma and has enthusiastically set out to achieve his associate's degree, and eventually, a master's degree.

A high school diploma isn't just symbolic of high school completion. It's an educational gateway tool that boosts an individual's confidence and provides the momentum to continue with an educational journey. Dropouts do eventually gain motivation to re-engage with school, but the fear of going back can be emotionally and mentally debilitating. They may feel intimidated by returning to a traditional high school environment or have difficulty passing a high school equivalency exam (i.e., GED, TASC or HiSET). Without reasonable high school completion alternatives, students turn away from their limited options, and the dropout crisis persists. In 2013, an average of one in five students didn't graduate, reports According to their stats, about 1.3 million students leave high school annually, and only 72 percent graduate. We cannot let this crisis continue to go unremedied.

Provide an alternative by offering a high school completion program specially designed to accommodate the unique circumstances and diverse learning processes of the nontraditional student. Penn Foster partner IOT adopted the high school diploma program and created a student-centered academic environment built for support and success. Together IOT and Penn Foster provide excellent guidance, resources and an accessible blended curriculum to jump-start the futures of returning students. The goal? To arm young people with a high school diploma, inspire them to start dreaming, and encourage enrollment in a career school.

"I can't make the commitment."

Attract nontraditional students to your program and enroll students into your college by marketing flexibility and options. Emphasize that yes, education isn't a singular "one-size-fits-all" model. How can your institution make education accessible, customizable and achievable?

An online learning solution, such as blended learning, can meet the needs of nontraditional students who are encumbered by a finite schedule and other significant responsibilities. A blended learning model, also known as blended learning, enhances learning experiences with both online and in-classroom teaching methodologies and active technology-based tools. While juggling a job and family duties, a student can access digital lecture materials and assignments independently, as well as meet with an instructor and peers for face-to-face collaboration in the classroom. Imagine a specialized curriculum designed to accommodate the individual student, whether students seek interactive classroom support or prefer to control their own learning experience outside classroom walls.

Not only does a blended environment support diverse learning styles, it boosts student satisfaction and achievement, which subsequently drives the motivation and commitment to keep moving forward. But despite relentless ambition, students struggling with the decision to commit to higher education still need support.

School professionals can help students pursue education by reaching out to and connecting with these individuals. Here are tips to get them to commit:

  • Make time to listen to students and give them a voice to be heard. Education is a two-way learning street. Young people and adult learners have unique perspectives and overlooked truths to offer as teachers themselves.
  • Devise a clear step-by-step tailored path that identifies how individuals can successfully move upwardly in their college career and graduate.
  • Offer a flexible program designed to foster self-directed, self-paced learning experiences and independence.
  • Serve as a role model or mentor with whom students can feel comfortable asking questions, expressing concerns or seeking help.
  • Support the resilience and perseverance of students re-engaging in high school or enrolling in college.
  • Help provide coping mechanisms, additional support systems and available solutions for students who juggle academic and personal responsibilities.
  • Be aware of warning signs that signal a student's disengagement or absence from their education. Respond with simple-to-use tools and channels to help them get back on track.

Education and career training, as well as a diploma, degree or certification, are life assets and avenues of opportunity that can never be taken away from a person. No matter what makes a prospective student commitment-phobic, whether it's demanding responsibilities at home or even lack of self-confidence, a person can successfully invest in education with the right resources and personalized online program.

"I already have a job."

Who couldn't relate to the fear of risk taking or pushing yourself outside of a comfort zone? Returning to school after years of being away can be a daunting thought, especially for people who may be blind to see what doors an education can actually open for them. Individuals who don't believe they're deserving or capable of leaving a dead-end job, accomplishing goals, learning new employable skills, and having a future of opportunity may also not see the value in education. "Just getting by" may be the only life a person knows and expects to live. School professionals can help people who are uncertain about what a high school diploma or continuing education can do for them by showing how education can provide a higher quality of life - starting with information and accessible baby steps.

First, convey that higher levels of educational attainment typically equate to increased earnings. For example, in 2012, the median income for high school graduates (or people with a high school credential) was $30,000. The median income for young adults without a high school credential was $22,900, and for college graduates with a bachelor's degree, median earnings were $46,900, according to the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Statistics. This means young people with a bachelor's degree can expect to make about 105 percent more than their peers without a high school credential and 57 percent more than their peers who did complete high school. Academically ambitious young people with a master's degree can expect median earnings of around $59,600, which is 27 percent more than the median income for college graduates with a bachelor's degree.

And throughout the duration of a lifetime, what stands between a college education and high school diploma? An income difference of about $830,800, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco. Forbes notes that on average, it can take less than 20 years to recover the costs of attending college, and the investment only continues to pay dividends throughout a lifetime.

Despite these income figures, education attainment instills self-confidence, a sense of accomplishment, pride, and the freedom to embark on opportunity beyond a dead-end job. Share the stories of former dropouts who not only went back to high school and earned their diploma, but who moved on to college and excitedly set goals for themselves. After graduating, George told Penn Foster that he's interested in a human resources program with IOT, as well as a bachelor's degree in business administration through Penn Foster. Penn Foster high school graduate Nina and Willie enrolled in the IOT culinary program and moved on to study criminology, respectively. Motivate students by helping them understand that an educational background prepares a person for more than just a job. It provides the skills, credentials and experience to embark on a prolific career path and lifetime of opportunity. / / / /