A form of discrimination that exists in higher education in both the national and global platforms is ageism. Age discrimination does exist in the engineering discipline and does not necessarily require the existence of sexism and racism. In a report written by Demi Simi and Jonathan Matusitz, Ageism Against Older U.S. College Students: A View from Social Closure Theory, they examine ageism and its effect in the United States’ higher education system. Older students are said to offer capabilities that have not yet been obtained by their younger peers. With their insights and experiences, older students are more prepared, provide more reliability, and have garnered more values than the younger students. Despite these advantages, older students encounter a large amount of neglect regarding their interests and learning styles. This neglect may stem from the false premise from university members that older students do not require as much considerable attention. This, in turn, can render them disregarded and virtually invisible when it comes to public policies and objectives. This blatant disregard hinders a university’s growth and prosperity, so more options and opportunities to engage the older students and create a more diverse and inclusive environment where older students feel comfortable in voicing out their thoughts and ideas is vital.
When entering their respective universities, older students come with the perception that they are marginal and possibly ostracized, feeling excluded from the mainstream culture. As time continues, this feeling can escalate. Older students, according to Simi’s and Matusitz’s report, shared their frustrations with the university’s admissions and counseling staff, who suggested that their real-world skills were the primary reason for their acceptance, no mention of their merit. Moreover, it was reported that the admissions and counseling staff that oversaw the undergraduates in the university believed that the first-year students all came straight from high school. These comments and false assumptions are not only annoying but create barriers in the institution.
Despite some of the hindrances, the class participation rates of older students can be a lot higher than compared to their younger peers. Their participation in class discussions and overall student engagement is valuable and appreciated, especially by the faculty members in the university. Their dedication, maturity, and inspiration seen in their pursuit of their degrees is motivating.
Now, several older students assume that higher education is necessary without question. They get inspired into enrolling at the universities to produce crucial life changes that cultivate new aspirations and new trajectories in their current conditions. For some, instead of circumventing the idea of pursuing a higher education degree, the unfavorable life circumstances are what motivate older adults to pursue a higher degree. Personally, I owe sincere gratitude to the older students in my department for their advice, encouragement, and enthusiasm during my graduate studies. Tackling ageism, which is apparent in higher education, as illustrated above, should be a priority in creating a more diverse and inclusive environment in the university system. The problem does not end in academia but transcends into the job market.