Unfinished Business

Compelling Stories of Adult Student Persistence

Matt Bergman, University of Louisville
Joann S. Olson, University of Houston-Victoria

A volume in the series: Adult Learning in Professional, Organizational, and Community Settings. Editor(s): Carrie J. Boden, Texas State University.

Published 2019

For at least the last 100 years, more than 40% of all students who enrolled in American colleges and universities have not persisted to graduation at four-year institutions. Their stories are varied, but in every case, something got in the way of that pursuit. Life happened. They became one of the nearly 36 million Americans who have some college but no degree.

For many, the stigma of not finishing college is a closely held secret that weighs heavily as they discuss, engage, and compete to meet the challenges of the workforce in the 21st century. Some weren’t ready at age 18 for the focus and commitment that academic studies require. Others found opportunities to create income and meet immediate familial needs or requirements. Many have excelled despite their lack of a college credential. Contrary to the deficit mindset that often permeates the retention and persistence discourse, this book highlights the stories of those who successfully returned to what was left unfinished.

The stories here may challenge your assumptions. These are high-quality students who demonstrated a compelling and inspiring commitment to their education, begun long ago and now completed—in some cases decades later. As you read, don’t miss the role that engaged advisors, supportive family members, and well-designed programs such as prior learning assessment played in helping students to the finish line. These narratives also demonstrate that it is time for institutions of higher education to imagine and embrace new ways of serving these students well.

Foreword. Preface. Acknowledgments. EMBRACING THE NEW “TRADITIONAL” STUDENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION. PROVIDING FOR FAMILY. Being the Example for a Young Family, Joe Trainer. Even Super Bowl Champions Can Come Back to Finish Degrees, Joe Jacoby. A Promise Fulfilled, Amobi Okugo. A Path to a Better Life, Latrivia Guinn. Musician and College Graduate, Jeffrey A. Crane. Comeback Student Athlete of the Year: From the Majors to Graduation, Sean Green. FINDING PERSONAL FULFILMENT. From Oil Changes to Influence, David Beumer. Grandma Goes to College, Jeanine Smith. Just as Glorious 50 Years Later, Ronald Tiller. Internationally Acclaimed Musician to College Graduate, Nappy Roots—Brian B. K. “Buffalo Stille” Scott. This VP Finished What He Started in 1987, Norris Hamilton. What Happens to a Dream Deferred? Jo Ann Herron. Showing Myself and Others It Can Be Done, Althea Jackson. Turning Nagging Regret into Triumph, Melissa B. McGarry. Dropping the Emotional Baggage and Building Self Confidence, Cindy Wentworth. Finding a Lost Treasure, Steve Shaw. Fulfilling the Promise, Amy Lear. 48, and Not Too Late, Chad Jones. PURSUING CAREER ADVANCEMENT. If You Have a Pulse, You Have Purpose, Troy Marables. A Lifelong College Journey, Kathleen Sailings. 18 Months and 89 Credits, William P. Dugan, III. The Chief of Police Recommends a Return to School, Jamie Land. Shasta for the Win! Tamra Switzer. Securing the Future, Andrew English. Fulfilling the Dream to Become a Teacher, LaKeesha Turner. Gain a Competitive Edge, Nancy Williams. A 29-Year Journey to Graduation, Dawn Hall. Private Commencement Ceremonies Are the Best, Lawren A. Just. My Educational Journey: Third Time is a Charm! Raylene Pollio. Advancing to Become the Police Chief, Jim Ferraris. OVERCOMING BARRIERS AND BEATING THE ODDS. The Thousand Mile Journey to a Better Life, Philip Young Alier. From Gangster to Graduate: The Untold Story of My Pursuit of a Dream, Orman E. Morton, III. Passion for Learning at Any Age, Deborah Kay Prather. Overcoming the Odds, Rachel Hensley. Because You’re Never Too Old, Amanda Skaggs. An Amazing Journey, Maria Esperanza Vazquez. Happy Tears, Rachael Black. The Hope Messenger, O. L. Kelley, II. Changing the Trajectory of My Life, Lisa Spencer. Tenacity to Reach a Lifelong Goal, Jenny Chatman. The Ladder of Success: One Rung at a Time, Clifford Hicks. My 44-Year Journey to a College Degree, Debbie Webb. A Long Educational Journey, Ellen E. Elliott. The True Value of Perseverance, Sharmiesha Timlin. REIGNITING THE LOVE OF LEARNING. A Very Personal Journey, Michael S. Keibler. South End Success Story, Gerald Kinnunen. Be the Hero of Your Own Story, Christopher Reid. A Toast to be Proud Of, Tommy Phelps. What am I Doing? Beki Nixon Sidener. The Voyage Itself is Part of the Reward, James Sauders. ADAPTING TO THE CHANGING STUDENT POPULATION. BUILDING AN UPDATED MODEL FOR ADULT STUDENT RETENTION. WHAT MIGHT THIS MEAN FOR HIGHER EDUCATION? CALL TO ACTION. References. About the Authors. About the Contributing Adult Comebackers.