Juggling Work, Kids, Debt And College, Older Utah Women Earn Degrees

Ann McClure's picture

A few years ago, Amy Jensen had more employment and educational experience than most Utah women her age. She had worked for years in victim advocacy and law enforcement, while raising a daughter on her own, but opportunities for advancement and better pay had dried up because she didn’t have a college degree.

Jensen, 45, started at the University of Utah two decades ago, with her sights set on becoming a photojournalist. Later she got interested in psychology, then police work, but dropped out as the demands of parenting and work became too much to balance with college. But she didn’t give up on higher education.

Jensen’s 21-year journey reaches the finish line Friday when she joins 4,855 other U. undergraduates getting bachelor’s degrees.

Her story exemplifies an issue that seems unique to Utah and doesn’t bode well for the state’s economic prospects. Facing a range of cultural hurdles, Utah women have not entered or completed college at the same rate as men for years. Just 26 percent of Utah women held a bachelor’s degree in 2008, versus 32 percent for men, according to a 2009 Utah Foundation study.

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