Burning the Midnight Oil for a Degree

The following report is part of CBS News' series on education: Reading, Writing and Reform.

Neither free coffee, nor fluorescent lights can keep eyelids from drooping, or heads from bobbing. It's not the lecture…it's the hour, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.

"It's about quarter to two in the morning - at this point the day has got to be dragging a bit, no?" asked Doane.

"Yeah, I'm tired, I'm up, I guess I'm uh (can't think)," laughed Blair Groves, a student.

Groves, 26, is enrolled in so-called "Midnight Oil" classes.

Scroll down to watch the video.


Daytime classes are jam packed, so Bunker Hill Community Collegein Boston has been forced to add five late night classes - running from 11:45 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

"We usually see enrollment increases when we see economic downturns, but this time, we're seeing an enrollment surge with a real vengeance," said George Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges.

Community college enrollment has jumped 17 percent in the last two year - 25 percent here at Bunker Hill.

When money is tight, coming to a community college can make perfect sense. Full-time tuition at Bunker Hill is about $3,000 a year - compare that to a private university in Massachusetts, which can be 10 times as much.

Bunker Hill Professor Kathleen O'Neill feels the recession.

"Absolutely you feel it," said O'Neill. "Because these people have lost their jobs or they're trying to change their careers."

Like Groves, who works a full shift for Southwest Airlines. Then at 11:15 p.m., he leaves the job he loves to study for a career in health care.

"It's the degree I want to go towards and would love to work in orthopedics someday," said Groves, who is going back to get new skills, trying to benefit himself in any way he can.

He's looking to transfer in two years, to study biology.

But he'll be an exception. Only one in four community college students transfer to a 4-year school or earn a 2-year associate's degree.

So the federal government is pumping an extra $2 billion into the system now strapped by state budget cuts.

The goal is for students like Blair Groves to lift up the number college graduates -- provided he can stay up.

  • Seth Doane

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