Feb 05, 2013

Non-Traditional Student Takes Non-Traditional Path

Accelerated Courses Helped Working Student Finish Degree in Two Years

Look up the definition of "non-traditional student" and you might just see a picture of Lawrenceburg's Mike Barnett. He not only started college at a non-traditional age, he earned his degree with a very non-traditional schedule.

Barnett, 41, completed his A.A.S. (Associate of Applied Science) in Business Management in 2007 with an almost perfect grade point average while holding down a job where he worked up to 12 hours a day, for six days a week. By taking accelerated classes offered at the Lawrence County Campus of Columbia State, he finished his degree in the traditional time frame of two years.

"When I initially laid it out, it was going to take five years," said Barnett. "Then Columbia State started offering accelerated courses." He attended class from 6 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday evening, completing three accelerated courses in a 15-week semester. He sometimes took up to two additional night classes, and when his job became more flexible, he even added afternoon classes.

"It wasn't easy, I just had the desire to buckle down and do it." Mike has worked at GraphTech since 2003, and prior to that at another local industry for 12 years. Losing that job gave him the incentive to follow the tough path he chose.

"I saw from losing my job that if I was going to be able to do anything with my life, to have any security, I was going to have to go to school."

Four of Mike and Amy Barnett's five children are at decision-making points themselves, seriously thinking about life after high school at the ages of 15, 16, 17 and 18. Their youngest is eight.

"I've told them that they don't want to try to raise a family and go to school like I did, and they saw how I struggled. One of my sons was on the Coffman football team, and all of his games were on Tuesday nights. I didn't attend a single one. So they saw me sacrifice the time I would have spent with them."

His children agree that a traditional path is best, and they intend to follow their dad to Columbia State.

"I've told them all to get at least their first two years at Columbia State. It's a great school and I really want to see them go there. They say that's what they're going to do."