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Ashford University Online: Why It Works for Me
When I was laid off from a position I'd held for nearly 10 years, I didn't waste time feeling sorry for myself. (Well, ok, maybe a day or so, yeah--but no more than that.) I started looking into options for going back to school that were affordable and convenient.
I found out about a scholarship program ostensibly for moms (and dads) who were wanting to return to school. In order to be considered, I had to write an essay. No problem--I was a writer/editor professionally for nearly 20 years, before winding up in manufacturing for another 10. I dusted off my CMoS and got to work.
While I didn't win a scholarship, I did find out about Ashford University's online bachelors' program. I wanted to study health care, specifically the administrative aspect of it. I already knew that the clinical side wasn't for me, after a short stint as a CNA in the late 90's. I loved the work but the work didn't love me back. (I was only 40 at the time--having people ask me if I needed a wheelchair to get to my car did not bode well for my continued employment in that capacity.) After some poking around on the 'net, I realized that Ashford was, at that time, the only school offering that particular degree. The others I found wanted to shunt me into an MBA, or a BS in Psychology, or other options that were not what I wanted. I stuck to my guns.
Ashford is a Franciscan university whose brick-and-mortar campus sits alongside the Mississippi River, in Clinton IA. Their online bachelor's program has been nothing short of wonderful for me. The enrollment process was painless; the financial aid process was made nearly-painless by my financial advisor, who patiently walked (talked? ok, talked) me through step by step over the phone. I have had three different academic advisors, but I will say that each of them has been professional, accessible, and helpful.
I was thrilled to find that I would receive as much credit as possible for work I did during my first BA, back in the late 70's. I expected that those credits would have "expired" by now, but Ashford believes that if one has done the work, one should be credited for it. By the time they finished transferring my credits, I had nothing but core classes for the Health Care degree, four more for my Public Administration specialization, and only one other course that is required of every online student regardless of degree or major. No basic math, no basic English/writing/communications, no comparative religion (even though I'd have really enjoyed that!), nothing but courses directly related to my chosen field.
Taking courses online through Ashford has meant I can do the readings at my own pace, when I have time. If that means in the middle of the night, that's fine. If that means taking the text along on a trip, that's fine. I can also fulfill the classroom participation requirements on my own time within reason, again in the wee hours if that's what works best. My laptop can come with me so I needn't worry about being able to "check in" as needed.
I am somewhat surprised that this time around I'm maintaining a GPA of 4.0. Part of me wonders if academia has just been "dumbed down" that much, or if I'm really that much more motivated/better at studying/improved as a writer/fill-in-the-blank. I have no idea about my classmates' GPAs, nor am I about to inquire; it's none of my business. I will say, however, that I am fairly sure that in the lower-level courses, some people are finding challenges. I have seen writing that curled my hair in 200-level courses; sometimes the people vanished from the class, sometimes they stuck it out. Taking a class online is very different from sitting in a classroom on campus, but the student body isn't all that different, really. There are still the brains (of which I'm apparently one, this time), the clowns, the stoners, and the ones who really shouldn't have gotten past admissions.
But I digress.
If you have sufficient self-discipline, online education can be a real boon to you. If you're working, you can study in your off-hours. If you're not working, you can study whenever you like, within reason (there are deadlines, attendance requirements, etc.). If you have children, you can work around their schedules.
The cost isn't cheap, but it's affordable. I personally have gotten 100% coverage from student loans, so far. (Sure, that has to be repaid--but I'm expecting to find some kind of employment before those loans come due!)
If anyone reading this has specific questions about my course of study at Ashford, please don't hesitate to ask. I could prattle on, but I'll stop at this point and wait for comments. Let me just close by saying: Ashford University has provided me with a positive experience in distance learning, for a reasonable cost.