I can remember the specific day.

Enrolled in my first year of college as a Mass Communications major, (yes, I was going to be the Today Show’s next female anchor woman), I had an epiphany. Sitting under the tutelage of our university’s president, during a once in a lifetime class,, he began sharing about his history working with Junior and Senior High Students. He called it “Youth Ministry” and the stories he told of lives changed profoundly impacted me. I knew then that direction was what I wanted to do. I desired to impact future generations.

While the lure of TV lingered, especially since I knew my skill set was made for that very career, I just couldn’t shake my true calling. I just hadn’t known what it was before I took this class, but this opportunity made that known.

My life’s work changed that day and the course of my college took a new direction.

The experience of advanced learning and education, whether through sitting in a classroom setting, diving into books regularly or furthering your love of learning online, makes a difference.

family photo furman

Last month, I shared 5 Ways to Save and Pay for College. Since we will have four kids in college over the next five years, this is a conversation I entertain frequently. Our oldest two sons are in brick and mortar schools right now, but our eldest went through a series of twists and turns to get where he is. 

We are living college choices right now, so for me, these posts are more than just writing about it, it’s helping me process our decisions and one thing I’m convicted about is that there are worthy alternative college education choices. I’ve so enjoyed the exchange of opinions on facebook and in the comments. I will be sharing your varying opinions in a future follow up post.

Due to our commitment to staying debt free as much as we are able, and the sky rocketing tuition rates, our eldest was not able to go to the college of his choice or even the top three colleges of his choices. Honestly, he’s a better man today because of it. It’s amazing how our children stretch through disappointment.

His freshman year, he transferred in some credits through the clep program, received some credits through an online college program, attended a local University of NC school, commuted from home, made the Chancellor’s List and paid cash for his first year of college. Since then, he’s transferred to an excellent private college and has taken out a student loan (in his name only). We paid cash for our half, but he insisted on a new school.

Many of you read about his crazy summer internship where he made money to put towards his next year, but will still need a small loan.

We are now entering decision making time for our Junior in high school and taking on-line classes for the first few years may be where we lean if he doesn’t get a golf scholarship. Our 15 year old daughter wants to be a Kindergarten teacher. She will be so inspiring for those kids. My friends call her the “Baby Whisperer.” It’s the perfect title to her skill set.

Since we homeschool her, looking into dual enrollment of college classes and high school classes at the same time is a huge benefit. My nieces and nephews have all taken advantage of this as well and when you do your undergraduate homework in advance, like I mentioned in my last post, many of these credits will transfer, and the amount of money saved is astronomical.

Paying for college without going into debt

Right after I finished my post on paying for college, I was introduced and invited to take a look at Western Governors University, an accredited online university. I have spent hours reading reviews, both positive and negative, before agreeing to post about them, because I will not give information lightly, but am very impressed with what I see. (Read my intro post on paying for college first, to see my view on an undergraduate degree.)

WGU was founded by the governors of 19 U.S. states. At no other time in the history of higher education have the governors of several states joined together to create a university. WGU is also supported by over 20 major corporations and foundations who believe in WGU’s commitment to producing highly competent graduates.

WGU is a nonprofit, accredited university, the same as state schools and private colleges– their goal is to address the obstacles facing those who are looking to advance or enter a new phase of their career – such as budget and schedule restraints.

WGU excels in four main areas : Business, information technology, education, and nursing.

If you want to take a peek at it, they’re waving the application fee for my readers.
WGU App Fee Waiver Code

•Recognized by Fast Company as Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in 2013

•”It’s a school without boundaries—there aren’t any teachers, curriculums are personalized, and students can go at their own pace.” – CNN

•”Let’s not waste anyone’s time or money. You won’t find that phrase emblazoned on a T-shirt, but it’s essentially the motto of Western Governors University (WGU), a private online school that has worked hard to prove it is anything but a diploma mill.” – Time Magazine

Western Governors University takes a competency based approach. They feel the power of learning, not just seat time, is best. This allows students to go at their own pace. A very self motivated, focused student would really excel through this approach because they can cut down both on the time and money needed to complete their course work. WGU is half the cost of other online schools and received numerous awards.

As with any alternative approaches to traditional college, you must do your homework.

Know the questions to ask. Understand what courses will transfer IN ADVANCE! Know the accreditation needed for specific fields of study and take your time researching your answers. With the wave of future education seeing a large movement to online learning, I know that more employers will be open to these degrees, plus if you plan on going onto a Masters program, this is a perfect place to get the inexpensive classes out of the way first, therefore putting your budget into your Masters degree.

No matter what your future holds in regards to furthering your education, I just love this inspiring video. Honestly, it’s so touching. Take one minute to watch it. It makes me realize just how much is possible, no matter what stage of life you are in.

How important was advanced learning in your life? Did it shape your future?

Would you do anything different? I’d love to dialogue with you as I continue to look into alternatives for huge college debt.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Western Governors University. The opinions and text are all mine.