Afternoon InqueeryEducation

AI: Barriers to Education

I’m working on some writing about my experience of dealing with some serious barriers to a quality education earlier in my life (I’m finally catching up with the 18 year old students I’m in school with now), and I’m curious about other people’s experience with trying to get a good education despite unusual conflicts that get in the way.

Did you have experiences growing up that prevented you from success in school? Have financial, geographical, or social barriers prevented you from getting a secondary, post-secondary, or graduate education? Do you wish something had been different that could have allowed you to be more academically successful? Are there still barriers to education in your life, or have you found ways to get the education you want?

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Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes is a queer polyamorous transman, curious skeptic, and enthusiastic seeker of knowledge. He's an undergraduate student in his 30's and loves teaching people about alternative sexuality and gender issues.


  1. August 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm —

    Dropped out of highschool to get away from an abusive parent (well, that’s the short version anyway). That’s surmountable, but in my brief stint in community college I found the academic environment to be seriously triggering and stuck it out long enough to finish the semester and stop again.

    I’ve accepted higher education isn’t going to happen until I’ve worked out my emotional life, but that isn’t on the horizon…

  2. August 28, 2012 at 9:07 pm —

    Good question. I, too, was an non-traditional student (NTS) in undergrad. I flunked out of undergrad when I was young. Looking back, I can see it was mostly due to social anxiety. I would have such deep and overwhelming anxiety about going to class with a bunch of strangers I didn’t know, and then I’d miss, and then I’d work myself up into guilt about missing and fear being called out when I returned, so I’d just stop going. And I didn’t drop the classes because of pressure from my parents.

    I’m in my early 30s now and I’m in graduate school. My social anxiety is mostly gone, probably partly due to age but mostly due to having great support from faculty and making friends.

    I’m not sure I’d change anything considering it’s worked out very well for me. Sure, I’m a little bit older than most of my peers (even in grad school), but going back to school a little bit older really helped me value my education more and I had a lot more experience to bring to bear on my education.

  3. September 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm —

    I had to drop out of high school at 16 because my family. Pretty severe physical abuse. I managed a GED, but that is pretty much only a couple of tests. I went back to school for an LPN at 24. The only reason I could, was I had a husband willing to work for $6/hour to put me through. To say we lived in poverty for that year and a half would be an overwhelming understatement. I then spent over ten years paying for my husbands college education, because he would work, we would have financial difficulties, and he would stop for a while. Then I finally got to go back to finish my dream of getting a college degree, and it was the same thing. Financial difficulties, stop, pay, go back. I’m going through much much quicker because he makes so much more than I did as a nurse.

    I think it’s hard for folks that go the traditional family/school/job route to understand. It put me back about ten years because my families abuse landed me homeless at the age of 16. Even trying to get a nursing degree, as just an LPN, was compounded in difficulty because my husband and I had absolutely no resources other than our own minimum wage capabilities. If we would have had kids, it would never have happened.

    I often get frustrated by the folks that talk about bootstraps and the poor, in concert with a college education. Folks that give that advice have never been poor. And now? With student loans, and tuitions skyrocketing? I’ll be in debt, literally the rest of my life to pay for this degree, with no way to discharge it. That’s the price I will pay to make enough money to get medical insurance, and lift myself out of poverty.

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