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Never Finished That College Degree? New California State University Online Program Might Help.

Jayla Lee / Sacramento State

There are likely tens-of-thousands of former California State University students who dropped out of college even though they were within sight of getting their degree. I was one of them.

But I learned first-hand that CSU students can now find a path to graduation — and without ever stepping foot back inside a classroom.

Veunta Dailey also has taken advantage of the program. On a recent early autumn day, she was at Yuba College in Marysville for a fair to promote various universities. She now works as a rep for Sacramento State’s child development program.

Students lined up to speak with her about attending Sac State, and she has an interesting perspective: She dropped out of college when she was their age, due to the lure of a steady paycheck.

“I was just young and the money — you know I was making a lot of money, more money than my peers,” Dailey recalled. “You know, right now I look back and I was making peanuts, but you know, as a young kid, you don’t know that.”

Fast-forward 10 years, and Dailey found herself working on the Sacramento State campus — but without that degree to support her career aspirations.

So, she became a full-time student again, and also continued to work full-time. She could do both because of a new CSU program called Cal State Online Complete.

It currently has 123 entirely online degree programs. Gerry Hanley helps oversee the technology that makes it work. He says the CSU has teamed up with the state's community colleges in order to offer classes at a lower cost.

“We really are trying to ... provide students affordable options,” Hanley saud.

Hanley says it’s important to help these return students get back into the groove, so the program also includes an extensive online support system.

Dailey took advantage of this, and says it’s what helped her get her degree. She says the emotions following graduation hard to describe.

“It’s almost like you’re looking for this feeling and then once you’re done, you’re like ‘Oh, that’s what it is.’ You didn’t know what it was before,” Dailey said. “You may have been happy in the past, but once you pass that finish line, it’s a new feeling that you’ve never experienced.”

I can relate: This past May, I got a shipping envelope in the mail containing the degree that had been elusive for a couple of decades.

Back in 1996, I walked through graduation ceremonies at Humboldt State University and immediately headed to my first full-time journalism job in Oregon. However, I failed to turn in two key papers, which ended up leaving me two classes shy of my actual degree.

Thanks to help from the CSU system and an online class at Sacramento City College, I was able to complete what I should have finished back in the ’90s.

I reached out to the CSU to finish my degree, but the system is concerned not all students will do that. It’s difficult for the CSU to reach students who have been out of touch for an extended period, because their contact information has likely changed.

Still, Hanley says he’s hoping as many former students as possible will learn about the new program and take advantage of it.

Copyright 2018 Capital Public Radio