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LAURA SULLIVAN, host: Although a college degree often leads to financial security, it can be hard to finish in tough economic times. If you do decide to drop out, turns out it's never too late to go back.

LEO PLASS: My nephew and niece got this thing ago - he asked me what, if I'd be interested in going back to school and getting my license, you might say.

SULLIVAN: That's Leo Plass. In a few months, he'll be 100 years old. When he decided to go to school for a degree in teaching, the year was 1929.

PLASS: This was all during the Depression. Things were kind of hard going then.

SULLIVAN: Plass put his money in the bank, but it went broke. And he couldn't pay the bills. That was when a friend offered him a spot in a logging company. And even though he only had one semester left, Plass dropped out.

PLASS: I needed the money to live on.

SULLIVAN: Plass went to work in construction, and traveled all over the country.

PLASS: Bet I spent probably 25 years down in Yuma, Arizona, where I worked for a contractor down there. Every year, after elk season, we'd go down there and spend the winters - up until about April the 1st. And then it got so hot, you couldn't even hang on to your tools.

SULLIVAN: Eventually, Plass ended up in Redmond, Oregon, where he still lives and spends his time building birdhouses, picture frames, and chairs for children. So when his nephew showed up and asked if he wanted to get his diploma, he was just a few credits short of his teaching degree. He said...

PLASS: I'm just too old to do it.

SULLIVAN: But then he thought it over and decided he wanted a college degree.

PLASS: I was the first one who went through the line of about 700 of them up there and - which is - there's about 600 more, and I figured it would be there. It was really something out of this world, I'll tell you for sure.

SULLIVAN: He now has something to put in one of those picture frames he makes: a diploma from Eastern Oregon University, 80 years after freshman orientation.

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