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Janitor Shows Fellow Adults it is Always Possible to Earn a Bachelor's Degree



By Catherine Groux
Posted May 15, 2012 08:00 AM

Today, many adults are choosing to go back to school.
Today, many adults are choosing to go back to school.
When Gac Filipaj was in his 20s, the war in his home of Yugoslavia forced him to flee the country, drop out of law school and move to New York City. There, the refugee took a job as a janitor for the prestigious Columbia University and worked hard to learn English, The New York Post reports.

Once he felt he had mastered the language, Filipaj applied to Columbia, never dreaming he would be accepted to the school. Still, even after receiving his hard-earned acceptance letter, Filipaj had to overcome many obstacles before earning his bachelor's degree.

Although he did not need to pay for classes as a Columbia employee, Filipaj often arrived at his apartment at 11 p.m., studied all night, then went to class the next morning. However, all his efforts paid off last weekend when he earned his bachelor's degree in classics from the Ivy League school. During his time at Columbia, he also managed to earn the admiration of faculty.

"This is a man with great pride, whether he's doing custodial work or academics," Peter Awn, dean of Columbia's School of General Studies and professor of Islamic studies, told the Post. "He is immensely humble and grateful, but he's one individual who makes his own future."

Today, more adults like Filipaj are deciding to go back to school. According to a study by the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™, 38% of all college students enrolled between the fall 2009 and the fall 2011 semesters were adult learners.

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