Project Graduate Targets Those Who Wish to Return to School to Finish Degree

file photo of students

­Did you leave college just short of a baccalaureate degree, either for a job or to raise a family?

Have you often thought years later about returning, but were apprehensive about how to begin the process or worried about how you would fit in with teenagers and twenty-somethings?

Well, Eastern Kentucky University would love to welcome you back, and is providing a number of services to streamline your return and make it easier for you to achieve your educational dreams.

It’s called Project Graduate (pronounced as the verb), a statewide outreach initiative designed to attract and graduate adult students returning to college. The only pre-requisites are that participants will have earned at least 80 college credit hours at any accredited college or university and been away from college for at least two years. Project Graduate received a major national award recently from Noel-Levitz as "one of the most successful, state-of-the-art retention programs in use today."

Since the program began in 2008, 145 Project Graduate participants have gone on to earn degrees at EKU.

Kara Harrison Tucker, one of approximately 100 currently enrolled in Project Graduate at Eastern, acknowledged that “returning to college at 45 was a daunting prospect. I was not at all sure of what to expect. My experience at EKU has been everything I hoped for and more. I experienced a warm and inviting culture with faculty who are genuinely interested in your success and ready to assist. Instead of feeling like a dinosaur … I am motivated and excited about the prospect of finishing my education within an atmosphere of support and a high level of professionalism.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in May 2013, Tucker plans to either begin graduate school or begin working full time.

“I would remain at EKU full time forever if I could,” she added, “but I have to eat and reality beckons.”

Lisa Cox, director of EKU’s Student Outreach and Transition Office (SOTO) and Project Graduate liaison, said Project Graduate students receive many forms of assistance, including:

·         free application.

·         streamlined records reactivation.

·         course transfer assistance

·         personal degree audit summary.

·         one-stop individualized consulting services

·         career and graduate school consulting

·         flexible degree completion options.

Many who inquire about the program at EKU may talk first with Paula Timbrook, a co-op office assistant with SOTO who is also a current Project Graduate participant. Timbrook, who previously attended Western Kentucky University, is seeking a general studies degree with an eye toward graduate school.

All the motivation she needs sits across from her at the dinner table each evening.

“I want to do it for my five-year-old son,” she said. “I want my little boy to know education is important. It hasn’t been easy, but it will be worth it.”

More than 300,000 Kentucky adults between the ages of 25 and 50 have some college credit from a public institution but no degree. Of that number, it is estimated that more than 12,000 have earned 80 or more credit hours.

Stan Howell joined Project Graduate at EKU in 2008, quickly completed his bachelor’s degree, went on to earn his MBA in 2011, and his now pursuing a doctoral degree in business. He aspires to teach college courses.

“Had it not been for Lisa Cox and her enthusiasm and professionalism, I would still be without any degree and feel that I had wasted the money that my parents had spent for tuition in 1968,” Howell said.

Cox, too, can speak from experience when she counsels students on returning to college after many years away from campus. She returned as an older adult to earn her master’s degree.

“What a difference it made in my life!” she exclaimed, “and now I’m able to help others come back and achieve their goals and change their future.”

To learn more about Project Graduate at EKU, contact Candy Behn with SOTO at candy.behn@eku.edu or 859-622-7686, or visit soto.eku.edu/projectgrad. The application deadline for Fall 2012 classes at EKU is Aug. 1.

“From the minute you let us know you’re interested, we will walk you through the process,” Cox said, “so don’t be afraid.”

Published on July 03, 2012