A special information session for MTSU employees is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, July 28, in the Student Union Atrium to emphasize using your employment benefit to take a class or earn a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.
Campus representatives will be present to help employees explore degree options and enrichment opportunities so there is “no money left on the table.”
All full-time employees can take one course per semester and up to four courses per year free of charge using their fee waiver.
All courses and programs are available, including bachelor’s and graduate programs and the highly popular Assessment, Learning and Student Success Ed.D. program, or ALSS, in the College of Education, which does not require a master’s degree.
Many utilize the benefit
Numerous employees take advantage of this benefit each semester and some don’t stop after earning one degree.
“I knew I didn’t want to keep going without a bachelor’s degree,” said Sherry Preston, the legal assistant for the Office of the University Counsel. “I started the Liberal Studies program in 2012 and did it course by course until I graduated in 2017.”
Preston was able to finish her degree quicker than she had hoped because of Prior Learning Assessment, another advantage that working adults have to accelerate their path to a degree. Preston was awarded more than 50 credit hours thanks to her prior work experience and training.
Often referred to as PLA, the course allows adult students to convert eligible prior work experience into college credit and use up to 60 credits toward electives. The PLA course is a standard three-hour course that lasts one semester.
Five years later, Preston is starting the Master of Professional Studies program in University College.
“I’d been thinking about it for a while,” she said. “I kept seeing the emails and knew they were not requiring the GRE and had a $2 application fee. It just made sense to go for another degree.”
Preston said that balancing her coursework with her personal life and her work on campus was not difficult at all. She’d work a little before she started work, check online discussions during her lunch, and if she had any more to do, she’d handle that after dinner.
“I absolutely loved the online courses,” she said. “They made it so accessible for me to do whatever I needed to no matter where I was.”
‘Take advantage of the benefit’
Brelinda Johnson, manager of the MTSU Scholars Academy in the Office of Student Success, was the first graduate from the ALSS program. She was already in a doctorate in education program at Tennessee State University, but transferred to the newly offered program at MTSU in 2020.
“MTSU’s program takes out a lot of the hoops students typically have to jump through,” the December 2021 graduate said. “Often, higher education programs use different exams to say that a student is ready to go to the next level. The ALSS program recognizes students as working professionals in those areas and provides what they need to get through the program.”
Johnson said there were several of her MTSU colleagues in the program with her, and since she started before them, she was able to serve as a mentor to some of them.
“It’s been great to see so many people join the program and progress through it,” she said. “I was able to attend a dissertation defense for one of my colleagues, which meant a lot to both of us because we knew how hard each of us had worked.”
Johnson said she tells people all the time to take advantage of this benefit of working at MTSU.
“You have the opportunity to take the class for free … take the class,” she said. “Don’t waste that time or opportunity. There is so much flexibility in so many courses and all kinds of programs, so I encourage people to find what they’re interested in and take the class.”
Employee registration begins July 29
Employees who may not be interested in enrolling in a program can also take any course of their choosing for enrichment purposes. In order to enroll in a course, the person must be admitted to the university.
Becca Smitty, MT One Stop director, said employees can begin registering July 29 for the fall semester.
“Once they are admitted, if not seeking a degree, they can apply as non-degree seeking (Adult Special) and take up to 16 hours under that admission type or apply as an audit (no credit) student,” she said.
“The deadline for waivers to be applied is the last day of the semester,” Smitty added. “However, the payment/confirmation deadline is Aug. 8.”
Smitty encourages employees meet the Aug. 8 deadline “unless they plan to pay out of pocket and be reimbursed,” she said.
More helpful information
• Employees should note that while the class may be free as part of the state benefit, they may encounter fees to apply for admission if they have never attended MTSU, for textbooks and any course fees.
• Admission for a first-time MTSU student can take two days to a week, Smitty said. After the student (employee) registers for the course, the student initiates the discount form, which goes to their supervisor, then to human resources and business/finance to process and apply.
• Employees planning to take a graduate course may encounter a delay if they have to obtain transcripts from a previous college or colleges they attended.
• MTSU Bursar Becky Bussell said employees have the opportunity to also register from Aug. 16 through Aug. 21, giving them the chance to find open classes after the Aug. 15 purge of students who have not paid fees.
• Bussell notes there are deadlines if the employee does not want to pay out-of-pocket to hold their classes. For those registering July 29-Aug. 15, the deadline to pay fees/confirmation is 6 p.m. Aug. 15. For those registering Aug. 16-21, the pay fees/confirmation deadline is 6 p.m. Aug. 29.
“Not only will they need to get the completed MTSU Employee Fee Waiver form to the Bursar’s Office by the payment deadline, they will also need to pay the course or book fees by the deadline,” Bussell said, adding that “Aug. 8 is the first deadline, but we are not deleting class schedules for nonpayment on that date.”
— Hunter Patterson (Hunter.Patterson@mtsu.edu)