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Project Graduate and MSU help adult learners finish degrees

MURRAY, Ky. — Imagine you’re only a few courses shy of earning your college degree and still want to finish what you started all those years ago, but with a busy lifestyle filled with work and family responsibilities, you figure there’s just no way.

If this situation describes you, Kentucky’s universities have a message for you — they want you back, and they will provide adult learner advocates and incentives to make your transition a smooth one.

Thanks to a program known as Project Graduate, adults with 80 or more credit hours are not only getting back on track, they are graduating. Project Graduate is a statewide program offered at all Kentucky public universities.

“Adult learners are critical to improving the quality of Kentucky’s workforce. We’re very pleased that our campuses have stepped up efforts to meet the needs of these adults who are very close to a degree,” said Bob King, Council on Postsecondary Education president.
Alyssa Shockley, who recently earned her bachelor’s degree from Murray State University, was not able to finish school the traditional way. A year away from graduation, she had to leave the area and move to Oklahoma after her husband joined the military. Alyssa was planning to finish her degree but a good job opportunity arose and she held off on finishing her degree for seven years.

When asked what her reason was for returning to finish her degree, she responded that she wanted set a good example for her daughter. “Other than being so close to achieving my degree, I wanted to finish it for my daughter. I didn’t want to push her toward a college education when she was older without having one myself.”

There were several challenges for Alyssa when she returned to finish her degree. She had an active three-year-old and her husband worked 13+ hour days as an army recruiter. She also had a second child while she was taking courses and moved from New York City to Arizona for six months. She finished her degree after moving back to Tennessee. “I would do it all again” says Alyssa. “At the time, I would wonder what I had gotten myself into as I struggled to get my schoolwork done, but in all honesty, looking back it really wasn’t that difficult to finish.”   

A few students have learned that they do not need any credits to receive their diploma. They simply did not apply to graduate after finishing all of their academic requirements or they needed courses that are no longer required.

After being out of school for a couple years, Evonne (Evey) Maddox was ready to finish her degree. She was contacted by Murray State University’s Project Graduate representative and put in touch with her academic adviser. She was pleasantly surprised after she received an evaluation of her credits. Her adviser delivered the exciting news that she could graduate immediately without taking any additional courses. Due to a catalog change, Evey had fulfilled all of the requirements for her degree by utilizing another course she had already taken.

Through spring 2011, more than one year ago, 605 former students had completed a bachelor’s degree with the assistance of Kentucky’s Project Graduate, and another 651 were enrolled in fall 2011. As a part of the Project Graduate initiative 48 students at Murray State have received their bachelor’s degrees since the program inception in 2007. Thirteen students have already applied to return to school and finish their degree for the fall 2012 semester at Murray.

“Adult students have been a priority at MSU for years. The Project Graduate program is another example of how MSU is improving the lives of adults throughout western Kentucky,” said Dr. Brian Van Horn, dean of Continuing Education and Academic Outreach, at MSU.
To find out more about the Project Graduate, and to locate advocates and incentives, go online at www.knowhow2goky.org/pg/index.php.

Murray State University offers special incentives that provide a seamless transition back to school. MSU will waive the $30 admission fee and a special scholarship may be available to students enrolling in the Bachelor of Integrated Studies degree. For more information, visit www.murraystate.edu/projectgraduate or call Murray State’s Project Graduate representative, Lisa O’Neal at (270) 809-2159.

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