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Adult learner to shed ‘empty feeling inside’ with ...

Adult learner to shed ‘empty feeling inside’ with degree, August graduation

Every parent of a high school student knows that college visits can play a pivotal role in shaping their child’s future. Phil Roberts, a 54-year-old from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, just didn’t expect those visits to change his own future too.

While touring colleges with his then teenage son, Matthew, Roberts said he “got an empty feeling inside,” one he recognized from years ago. That same feeling of missing out on something important had prompted him to take classes at a community college, but he stopped after completing his associate degree.

MTSU summer 2020 graduate Phil Roberts is shown with his son, Matthew, at his high school graduation in 2015. Roberts, 54, will receive his bachelor’s degree in integrated studies in August after using MTSU’s Prior Learning Assessment program to facilitate his pursuit of a degree. (Submitted photo)

MTSU summer 2020 graduate Phil Roberts is shown with his son, Matthew, at his high school graduation in 2015. Roberts, 54, will receive his bachelor’s degree in integrated studies in August after using MTSU’s Prior Learning Assessment program to facilitate his pursuit of a degree. (Submitted photo)

“I was talking to an old friend, and he was telling me about a coworker of his that had gone back to school and finished his degree,” Roberts said, thinking to himself that maybe he could do the same thing.

He started researching options and found MTSU and immediately took advantage of the Prior Learning Assessment course through University College. Using PLA, Roberts was able to take his 30-plus years of experience in the low-voltage security industry and convert that to nearly 50 hours of college credit.

Through PLA, MTSU instructors work with students and help them document all their prior work and training and certifications. Once that experience is evaluated, students are awarded college credit for the time and cost of a three-hour course. Most students earn around 20 credit hours, but with all his experience Roberts was able to leverage the course and propel himself to the finish.

“The Prior Learning Assessment course really just skyrocketed me toward completion,” he said. “If I had actually had to take all those courses, I would have given up.”

The rest of Roberts’ courses were online, taking one or two classes per semester. He says his one piece of advice for someone considering going back, but is unsure if they can do it, is to just try it out.

“I’d tell people just to try one class and make sure it is something you’re interested in,” he said. “Since the courses were online, I had to make sure the process was right for me. Once you finish up the registration and enrolling, it’s all about inertia. Once the ball starts rolling it will keep rolling.”

Roberts is set to graduate in August after wrapping up his final classes this summer. He’s not sure exactly what his future holds, but he’s excited to revamp his resumé and add a bachelor’s degree in integrated studies to it.

Anyone interested in more information about how to finish your degree, please visit MTSU.edu/FinishNow.

— Hunter Patterson (Hunter.Patterson@mtsu.edu)


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