Adult students get another chance to finish college degrees

Adults are getting a second shot at a college education for Project Graduate Week. The effort by universities across the state encourages adults who have already earned a certain number of credits to complete their bachelor’s degree.

One 46-year-old student at Murray State University’s Paducah extension is showing other adults it can be done.

Pulling out her books to look over notes for class isn’t something Tammy Jones will be doing much longer. She’ll be getting a bachelor’s degree this December.

"I have let it run through my mind several times, to the point of how I’m going to wear my hat. I’m just so ready," Jones said.

It’s something that’s been almost 30 years in the making.

"This is something I’ve been through obstacles over," Jones said.

Since she first started community college in the 90s, Jones has moved around with her husband — who was in the marines — raised two children, lost a brother and battled breast cancer. 

"For a moment I stopped. I had a mental stop, but I just said ‘I’ve got to do it, I got to do it,’" Jones said.

Murray State Dean of Regional Academic Outreach Brian Van Horn says this is something universities are seeing more often.

"It’s very fulfilling to for those of us who work with adult-type markets, and see them come back and finish what they started," Van Horn said.

This week, universities across the state are waiving application fees for qualified adult students. It’s all part of an effort to bring more non-traditional students to the classroom.

"When you train and educate non-traditional students, generally they will contribute back in that area for a lifetime," Van Horn said.

This is what Jones plans to do, by becoming a teacher in the area.

"Being an example keeps me saying (there’s) no no reason to stop," Jones said.

When Jones enrolled at MSU last January, she already had more than 100 credits under her belt.

She been a teacher’s assistant at Paducah Middle School for almost 20 years, so now she wants to go on to get her masters to become a teacher.

She’s getting a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Studies. It’s designed for adult students who have previous credits to put toward their degrees. It’s also has more flexible courses.

Qualified adults can enroll at any Kentucky university through Friday with no application fee. To qualify, former students must have more than 80 college credits toward a bachelor’s degree and 30 or more toward an associate’s.

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