Going back to college when you have four children to care for is no simple task.

“You find yourself trying to remember how to study as you balance everything,” said Hodges University student Dana Fulker, who is married with two sons and two stepsons.

Fulker, 45, was one of several adult learners who earned diplomas at Hodges University’s 20th annual commencement Sunday at Germain Arena in Estero.

Hodges, which conferred degrees to 525 graduates at the event, is filled with adult learners. The average age of a student is 32.

“I’m truly awestruck by the mission of this university,” said Michelle Bernard, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Independent Women’s Forum. Bernard, a regular analyst for MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” gave Sunday’s commencement address.

“Never in my life did I think I would speak at a graduation where the institution not only truly understands education, but that it’s for men and women of all ages.”

About 70 percent of Hodges’ 2,100 students are female, and many have inspiring stories.

Michele R. Boose picked up a master’s degree in business administration Sunday – nine years after being homeless. Phyllis Elaine Turner, who earned an associate degree in business administration, is a single parent planning to start a company.

“As adult learners, we realize that we need to squeeze everything we can from our instruction,” Fulker said.