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There's No Business Like School Business
(Continued from 2)

The Third and Fourth Degrees.
It helped a lot that my GI Bill was paying for it all, because I had no costs other than my books (averaging $100 per course). I proudly marched down the aisle to accept a Master of Education degree in 1982 and then again for a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in 1986. Each degree was 36 semester hours of no-nonsense work.

My life had changed by degrees! At my high school commencement, it was the furthest thing from my mind that I might wish to go on to study nights and/or weekends and earn four degrees. I remember high school as boring, at least the classes. I enjoyed the plays and concerts, the fun stuff.

Nobody was more astounded at my academic turn-around than my parents. I always mailed them photocopies of my grade reports and they remained my steadfast cheerleaders. With each degree completion, they sent cards and gifts and called to congratulate me. They, who had saved so hard for my college tuition, had never used a cent of it. I encouraged them to go on a cruise, enjoy the money, have fun being retired.

I had used up almost every penny of my GI Bill benefits, but after a while I was itching for a doctorate. I missed the excitement of going to classes. Also, it seemed I had too much free time on my hands. My full-time job was a guidance counselor, but I delivered pizzas a couple of nights a week and did some tour guiding on weekends. I did some volunteer work and I enrolled in several semesters of German language classes in an adult education program and that kept me busy for a while. There were no credits involved, but improving my German was a plus, considering I was living and working in Germany.

It was a bit scary, but I started classes for the only doctoral program available on base. It was an Ed.D., though a doctor in education degree was not really my cup of tea. New students could take three courses before formal acceptance, so there I was, sitting in class with assistant principals and well-seasoned teachers at the other desks. I felt pushed up against a brick wall at times and also looming in front of me was the strict requirement that overseas students had to spend two summers on campus in the U.S. I knew I could never afford that. True, my tuition would be covered, but I'd be on leave-without-pay for those months and would have to pay for a place to stay those summers.

I dropped out. It was the biggest bump in the road in my long educational journey. My grades were dismal. I was miserable. I wasn't even sure I wanted or needed a doctorate, but if so, certainly not one in education.

Since living abroad was a permanent situation for me, I decided I had to opt for my old stand-by - a non-traditional method. Getting a doctorate actually was not half as intimidating as I had thought. Basically one needs 60 semester hours beyond the master level. I already had an additional advanced degree (beyond my Master degree) under my belt, plus the few credits from my short gig with trying for an Ed.D., so was more than half way there at the starting gate.

I enrolled with Pacific Western University by mail and awaited their evaluation of my credits. This time I was paying my own way and, if all went well, I'd be awarded a Ph.D. in Behavioral Science.

The news was great! I would need to do a couple of small research projects on my own and write up papers of 10 pages or so for each. My transfer credits looked fine. Not only did they come from accredited institutions, but I had maintained a decent GPA. I faced doing a research proposal, which went well because I'd learned a lot about that - perhaps the sole benefit of suffering through those Ed.D. classes. The final credits would come from the completed dissertation, which had to be at least 100 pages.

I remember laughing when I found out I had six years to complete it. Who needs six years? But the library research (back in the days of microfiche, not Internet), the questionnaires, the crunching of numbers, the writing to a specific format, it all took time. Lots of time -as in years. I wasn't laughing anymore.

I felt alone in the world. It would have been easier to finish a dissertation with fellow students and professors ready to answer questions. I tried not to panic and I didn't rush myself. I examined a number of completed dissertations. Even though the subjects were not at all similar to mine, I was concentrating on the format, the presentation, everything. I wanted my research project to be worry-free and the dissertation as close to perfect as I could manage. I knew if I found any errors in my basic calculations, I'd have to start over.

The Fifth Degree.
From start to finish, it took me just over five years. For weeks I waited for my educational advisors to evaluate my research and dissertation. They had a few minor questions for me, but all went smoothly. I was elated - I did it! As before, I could not attend the commencement ceremony. My degree arrived in the mail, along with a hardbound copy of my dissertation.

A 20 Year Journey.
From start to finish, my college "career" lasted almost 20 years. I consider it a journey of learning unlike no other. My milestones along the way:

High school graduation - 1970

Associate of Science in General Studies - 1978

Bachelor of Science - 1980

Master of Education - 1982

Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study - 1986

Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Science - 1993

I'm not so sure the story is over. The family saga continues. My son was 24 when he enrolled in his first evening junior college class. Who knows? Give him another couple of decades and he just might be the next doctor in the family.

Roberta Beach Jacobson, 52, currently lives in Karpathos, Greece. For more information and a list of writing credits see

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