A Working Mom Finds an Affordable Way to Complete Her Degree: A StraighterLine Success Story

A Working Mom Finds an Affordable Way to Complete Her Degree: A StraighterLine Success Story
Beth Dumbauld

Sheila Ann Jordan, a certified life coach, lives in Louisiana and has worked full time for five years training children’s behavioral health service providers. She first went to college right after high school--29 years ago--the first in her family to do so. “I first went to college planning on becoming a business owner,” said Sheila. “My goal was to ultimately earn my MBA.” Life, however, got in the way of completing her degree.

She had two daughters and began working full-time in a career that made a difference in children’s lives. “I’ve been very fortunate and blessed,” said Sheila, “Yet I always saw earning my degree as a stepping stone to even bigger goals.” In fact, Sheila never stopped pursuing her degree. Over the years, she made several starts and stops towards achieving her higher ed goals--accumulating many college credits in the process--but found she was still 11 courses short of having a college diploma.

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Stressing the Importance of a College Education at Home

As a single mother, Sheila had always stressed the importance of education to her two daughters. The message was well received by her girls. Her oldest daughter Sydney graduated from Duke University in May 2015, and will graduate from nursing school in 2017. Using her daughter’s quickly approaching graduation as inspiration, Sheila became even more determined to earn her degree. Her new goal was to graduate with her bachelor’s in business administration by the time her daughter received her second degree. The clock was ticking.

First, Sheila knew she would need to find a way to affordably and flexibly complete college courses online -- at an accelerated rate. She worked full time, Sydney was in college, and her youngest daughter, Paris, was still in high school. Finances were tight and she had a busy schedule. There were many reasons not to go back to college, but she was determined to reach her goal this time around. “I had never let go of my desire to get an MBA,” said Sheila. “I kept the vision of graduating with me at all times. I just knew I had to earn my bachelor’s degree; not having my degree was holding me back from doing the thing I really want to do -- earn my MBA.”

Even though Sheila had a strong desire to return to school to complete her degree, she still needed a plan to do so. Thinking ahead, she had sent away for a transcript from Franklin University, the college she had last attended 7 years ago, and found exactly which--and how many--classes she still needed to complete her degree. She discovered she only needed 11 classes to graduate.

“I knew exactly what I needed to graduate but the reality was, I could not afford to enroll full-time at Franklin.” Rather than becoming less determined, Sheila became more so. She decided she would find an alternative way to complete her degree. With the growth in online classes, she knew there must be something available outside the traditional degree route.

Completing College Prerequisites Online

“I started doing some research online, searching for online classes for college credit. That’s when I first came across StraighterLine.” Looking through StraighterLine’s course catalogue, she was thrilled to find out StraighterLine offered so many of the courses she needed to complete her degree. Reviewing her transcript from Franklin University, she realized “I could complete nearly all of the courses I needed for my degree at StraighterLine.”

Then she hit another speed bump, or so she thought; Franklin University wasn’t yet an official StraighterLine partner college. That fact, however, didn’t stop Sheila from mapping out the courses she needed for her degree program if--and when--StraighterLine became a partner with her school, she wanted to be ready. Fortunately, she didn’t have to wait long.

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Earning a Business Degree at Franklin University

As a subscriber to StraighterLine’s weekly education newsletter, Sheila was notified that Franklin University had indeed become a StraighterLine partner college. Ecstatic, she quickly reviewed StraighterLine’s course equivalency agreement with Franklin, and forwarded it to her academic advisor at Franklin University. Her advisor gave the great news, the courses were guaranteed to transfer as planned. “I’m telling you, it was pretty exciting. Because StraighterLine costs only $99 a month, I could afford to complete the college courses I needed, including electives -- and finally earn my degree!”

Finishing 8 College Courses at StraighterLine

Sheila first signed up for Introduction to Business (3 credits) -- and immediately liked how the course was structured and the flexibility she had to complete it on her own schedule. One of her favorite StraighterLine classes was Personal Health & Wellness (3 credits), which required her to complete a 5k.  She chose to finish up her StraighterLine experience with Introduction to Biology (3 Credits) and Biology Lab (1 credit), a course that enabled her to complete her final science requirement. After enrolling in April, Sheila will have completed 8 of the courses she needed for her degree at Franklin through StraighterLine.

“Online education works for me because it is self-directed. I get to work on my courses when it’s convenient for me. I love having e-textbooks because I can have them with me anywhere. I can view my homework on my tablet or computer, even during lunch at work. With StraighterLine, I can schedule to take my tests whenever it works for me, even at 11:30 at night.”

Advice to Other Adults Considering Earning Their College Degree

Sheila has excellent advice to offer other students looking to complete their degree or go back to school for the first time:

  • Ask yourself: why am I considering it?
  • Then ask: how would my life be different?

“These were driving questions for me,” said Sheila. “I feel it’s important to see yourself across the finish line in advance. Once you do that, it becomes a matter of dipping your toes in the water. Start slow. If you haven’t taken a college class before, start with a free trial, start with one class. Enroll in something you are personally interested in. It’s important to let yourself have a win early and enjoy success! An early success will help you stay motivated and keep moving forward.”

Sheila will graduate with her Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Franklin University in 2016. Thanks to StraighterLine, she affordably earned the college credit she needed to complete her degree. Congratulations, Sheila!

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