Sunday, July 19, 2015

Journey to my Bachelor's Degree

After High School-ASU 1999
I began my college journey traditionally. In the fall after my high school graduation(1999) I enrolled at Angelo State University. I received a grand total of 3 semester hours credit for that semester. I was initially enrolled in 12  hours. I remember dropping College Algebra because-math. I'm not sure why I didn't pass English Comp I. I know that I failed photography because I used the money my parents sent for developing supplies to pay a secret speeding ticket I go the day I moved into the dorms. So yea that semester was fun but not so fruitful academically. I came home for Christmas break and lost my mom on New Year's day so I did not return. My dad and I could not breath without one another for that first 6 months.

the time fondly referred to as "first semester"
ah the college experience

HPU 2002-2003
I didn't attend school again until the fall of 2002 when I started taking courses full time at Howard  Payne University. I went  there for two semesters while working about 25 hours per week at Wal-mart's pharmacy.  After that year, Devin and I decided we did not want to continue to incur the massive student loan debt of a private school. We were 22 and 20 at this time and were not cash flowing any of my education.  It was around $10,000 per semester at that time. I completed 21 hours in my time at HPU and generally enjoyed their business program.

ASU (again) 2003
We relocated to San Angelo so I could return to ASU. That semester was a flop. I became pregnant with Carson and dropped all my classes about 6 weeks in. We returned home to Brownwood in January of 2004 because we wanted our kids to be raised in the community we were raised in.

CJC 2008
I did not take any more courses until the spring of 2008 when I enrolled in my first fully online courses through Cisco Junior College. I really responded well to this format. I was able to complete 27 hours in two semesters there while working forty hours per week.
I kind of gave up the idea of completing my degree after that. I was on a good career path and my kids were now 8 and 5 years old. They were super busy and Devin and I were creating a great life for them. I was accepted to UTA at one point  but the only online only degree they had was in liberal arts so I did not end up taking any classes there.

TAMUC 2014
You all know that I took courses to get my real estate sales license in 2014. I began that career in May of 2014.  In September of that year I saw a tweet from someone I follow on Twitter. All the tweet said was "Texas Affordable Baccalaureate". I gave it a google and once I learned about the program, I applied and enrolled within 5 business days. It is offered through two Texas universities. I chose to enroll at Texas A&M Commerce. It was very swift. Within one week of  finding out about the program, I was logging into my first class.  My kiddos were busier than ever by this point. I was working 4 days per week at the pharmacy and working in the real estate office one day per week. I was also showing houses in the evenings and on weekends. It was terribly difficult to juggle the chaos of parenting, wifeing , two jobs and school. I stopped selling real estate at the end of December. Something had to give and I realized that real estate was not for me.
In the ten months from September 2014 until June 2015 I completed 72 hours(24 courses). This program is amazing.
The early days printing course materials

when I accidentally ended up at TAMUC Dallas last week while roaming downtown

editing a presentation in a dingy robe
This is me dressed in a button down and sweats for a waist up video presentation.
A fun thing happened when my boss/our owners found out I was completing my degree. She created a position for me at our company where I get to do all the things I love all day.  It's the kind of job I have longed for and didn't even know was an option. God always puts us where he needs us and I am very happy to be the Operations Manager at Doc's Drugstores Inc.

first day as Operations Manager February 16, 2015

The moral of this story is that I will be walking at my college graduation next month at the age of 34. I initially went to college to have fun and be 18 and I did that, and did it well. Then I went because I knew I was capable of earning a degree and intended to achieve my potential. When I went back this time it was for one reason and one reason only: to show my daughter that no matter what happens in your life, if your parents die or you get pregnant at 19 or if you have to be financially independent at a young age-you can still accomplish your goals. She does not get it right now and that's okay. I know one day she will get it. One day when she thinks she has too much on her plate or when things don't go as planned. I just want her to know that women are more than moms and pretty things to look at. We are machines. I'm a machine.

To learn more about my experience in this program at Texas A&M Commerce click here.

TAMUC Class of 2015

Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Program-TAMUC

You can read about the program on Texas A&M Commerce' website here. Continue reading to learn about my specific experience.

I applied and enrolled in September 2014. It was the simplest process of any of my many college enrollments. This program is designed for busy working adults who already have some college and are already on a career path. I guess you can enroll if a degree would help you in a new career but I feel like most of us just wanted to enhance our value within our current field. I feel like it was designed just for me because it ended up being so perfect.

Program Description
Instead of semesters classes are grouped into 7 week terms. You begin each term enrolled in two courses. Additional courses are added as you complete the initial two classes. I chose to only work on one course at a time because my life was already chaotic with work and family. The program is built on competency based education. This means that once you "test out" of a class by making an 80 or better on the course final, you have completed that class. All the course materials(video, forums, text, etc.) are provided within the course and accessible through most platforms like your laptop, IPad, or IPhone. I chose to do everything from my laptop.

Here is a break down of the number of classes I completed each term:
Term 1, September 8-October 24: 4 classes(12 hours)
Term 2, November 3-December 19: 2 classes (6 hours)
Term 3, December 29-February 13: 6 classes (18 hours)
Term 4, February 23-April 6: 4 classes (12 hours)
Term 5, April 20- June 5: 6 classes (18 Hours)
Term 6, June 15-July 31: 2 classes (6 hours)

For me the dream was to complete one course per week but I never quite reached that goal. I am generally pleased with how I was able to accelerate through the courses.
The second term may look like I hit the brakes a little bit but I planned on giving myself the whole term to complete the algebra course I was enrolled in. I dropped college algebra more times than I like to admit so I needed all that time to master that class. Also the other course I was enrolled in, Professional Development,  is not exactly competency based. It was the only class I took that had weekly assignments.
With that exception, the amount of time I spent on school was dependent on how busy my kids were keeping me since my work schedule was consistent throughout.
My final term began on June 15th and I was actually finished with my last two courses by the end of June so I had some time to spare.
The last ten courses are formatted a little differently than the others. In addition to testing out  of the course material, we also had to complete a project. This is probably where I learned the most. I found the projects very stimulating.

The money
Each term costs a flat rate of $750.00. We paid $3500 for 72 semester hours.This includes books until you get to the last ten classes. My books for those classes cost less than $150, I shopped the best prices between Amazon, Half, and EBay.  Here is a quick comparison of the cost compared to other more traditional routes of education-
Private School- around $853.33 per semester hour
Public 4 year University-$520.00 per S/H
Junior College-$133.00 per S/H
Community College-$85.00 per S/H
My cost at TAMUC-$62.50 per S/H
Degree Information
My degree is from the school of Humanities and Education. It's a Bachelors in Applied Science in Organizational Leadership. My education prior to TAMUC was in Business so this was not much of a departure for me. 
If you have further questions about my experience in this program,  I am happy to answer them and help anyone who wants to complete their degree!