After years of working as a teacher and homeschooling her children, Jennifer Hendrickson made a decision. It was time to get her bachelor's degree.
But the cost of a degree was far above her family budget—particularly since Jennifer and her husband, Jason, wanted to pay in cash.
She gave up hope until she discovered Thomas Edison State College
. Now, more than a year later, she’s finishing up a bachelor degree online and will soon be able to call herself a certified teacher.
And thanks to her Get Educated $1,000 online college scholarship, she’ll have plenty of greens to help pay off her degree.
Teacher Can Finish Degree Through Online College
Jennifer, 40, has worked in education for 24 years. Her current job as a class coordinator for an alternative learning education program often requires her to teach, but she does not have a formal degree or certification.
Instead, she’s learned firsthand how to instruct a wide variety of ages.
“We serve K-12; I could have 20 different classes,” she says. “One period could be with the little ones, then the next with the high schoolers, and the next one with the middle schoolers. You have to be very versatile. You could have four to six grades spread in one classroom.”
She also has extra teaching experience from homeschooling her 12-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, who both attend the alternative learning program for enrichment activities.
Jennifer was inspired to finish her bachelor's degree after seeing the need for more certified teachers in the alternative learning program. Earning a degree would let her step into a professional teaching position.
But finishing up her degree proved more challenging than anticipated.
She began her higher education years ago at a community college, earning 40 credits. But when she looked at continuing her studies at a traditional college, the cost was prohibitively high. Plus, many of her credits wouldn’t transfer.
“I’d be spending money to relearn what I already know,” she says.
Nearly 20 years later, Jennifer found herself in the same situation.
“It was $85,000 to go through the school from beginning to end, even with the credits I had received,” she says.
She had given up on her dream to obtain a college degree until she heard about Thomas Edison State College. Based in New Jersey, the school is a regionally accredited college geared specifically to self-directed adults. Students can earn affordable undergraduate degrees through credit for life and work experience options.
“They specialize in helping adults get their degree from prior knowledge,” Jennifer adds.
She decided to purse an online bachelor of arts in natural sciences and mathematics through the school. Once graduated, she could then earn her secondary teaching certification through Western Governors University
Online College Scholarship Helps Teacher Finish Degree
She enrolled in January 2012 and has been able to quickly advance, thanks to Thomas Edison’s generous credit policy and the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP).
Financial aid cannot be directly applied to CLEP tests, so Jennifer has been funding all of her tests. While the cost savings has been great compared to actually taking the classes, paying for everything out-of-pocket has still proven to be a strain. Now that she’s enrolled for online courses at Thomas Edison, she can finally use financial aid, such as scholarships
, to fund the rest of her degree.
Winning the Get Educated $1,000 scholarship was a major relief for Jennifer and her family.
“It was a big blessing," she says.
Paying for her upcoming classes would've taken a large chunk from their family finances. “I said, ‘God, I know you’re going to provide the money from somewhere,’” she says.
Winning the online college scholarship proved an answer to prayer. “It was what I needed to fulfill the enrollment costs.”
Future Plans After Earning Teaching Degree
Jennifer is nine credits shy of her senior year, and wants to graduate in November or December of this year. She hopes to start Western Governors’ certification program in January 2014.
“Through Thomas Edison, I’m getting just a bachelor’s degree...Then I take a series of courses through Western Governors to fulfill the teacher certification requirement.”
Once she’s a certified teacher, she intends to remain an alternative learning educator.
“I’d love to work with the (alternative learning students) as long as I can. I love coming up with new ways to help students understand something better, and seeing them get excited about something they could care less about before,” she says. “It’s very rewarding for me to see how they can succeed in non-traditional ways.”
She acknowledges that alternative education funding could be an issue in the future, and is excited that teaching certification could offer her new opportunities in the field she loves.
“I still want to be marketable for the regular classroom. I’d love to continue on as a high school math or science teacher as long as I can. That has been a gift given to me, a love of teaching.”
It’s gift that she intends to refine through her own education and by inspiring young students.
Get Educated offers the $1,000 scholarship for distance learning assistance
twice a year. The program is based on both merit and need. The competitive online university grants are based on grade point average, a written essay and demonstrated financial need. Get Educated now about this unique free program for online students.
About Rachel Wang
Rachel Wang is a writer, editor and producer with a background in journalism and online media. She holds a master's degree in library and information science and specializes in online learning news and trends for the Get Educated news team.