Graduate Earns Online Degree Debt Free

According to the US News & World Report, "As the pandemic eases, many institutions are realizing that properly planned online platforms will allow them to better serve all students, including nontraditional learners."

At Rock Valley College, students can complete an Associate of Arts (AA) degree completely online. Regardless of a student's residency status, the tuition for online courses is the same as in-district tuition. Online courses allow students to pursue a degree without completely rearranging their lives to accommodate classes.

Ashley Davis recently completed her AA degree online at RVC. She explained, "By attending courses virtually, I was able to keep my normal schedule. I didn't have to take a reduction in work hours."

As a 30-year-old student with a full-time demanding job in health care administration, taking classes online helped Ashley better balance work, home, and education. "There are a lot of schools or degrees out there now that require you to reduce work hours or even go jobless in order to succeed. That is not an option; we all have bills to pay," said Ashley. 

This was not Ashley's first attempt at completing her degree. Her first attempt came at age 18 after high school graduation. For her, the timing was not right, and she decided to put her goals on pause.

Over the years, a college degree continued to be important to Ashley, and going back to school weighed on her mind. When her grandfather passed, she knew the time was right to get back on track.

"I firmly believe my grandfather would have wanted me to succeed at something important to me. For me, that was to get a college degree," explained Ashley.

So, that is what she did.

Ashley was drawn to the AA degree at RVC for several reasons. Not only is the degree transferable towards a bachelor's degree, but it can be completed with very few visits to campus.

"I loved that RVC offered an entire degree with minimal on-campus visits. Besides getting books or supplies for the semester, I only had to make four visits to campus to deliver presentations," Ashley added excitedly.

While online courses were convenient, it was still necessary to finance her education. After her first experience with college, Ashley was committed to completing her degree debt-free.  

Ashley clarified, "While the healthcare system I worked for offered tuition reimbursement, that didn't make paying for school any easier."

Thanks to Rock Valley College Foundation scholarships, Ashley's received assistance for her final year at RVC. She credits the RVC Foundation for helping her finish her degree.

"This took all the stress off because I didn't have to worry about how to pay for the semesters upfront only to be reimbursed later by my employer. This also helped me mentally, as the awarded scholarship made me feel that I had a few extra people rooting me on. I wanted to succeed and not let them down because they invested their money into me to do well."

"My experience at RVC was great. I am so thankful to my friends and family who have helped support me on this journey. I would not have been able to do it without them," she said. "Included with my gratitude are those who helped fund my Foundation Scholarship. I wish I could thank them in person."

With online courses, a solid support system, and financial support from RVC Foundation Scholarships, Ashley was able to complete her degree with honors and as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.

Ashley celebrated her achievements at the RVC Commencement exercises on Friday, May 13, 2022. 

With graduation behind her, Ashley is enjoying a much-deserved break. However, that break from college will not last long as Ashley has her sights set on a bachelor's degree.

Ashley has excellent advice for others considering a return to college. "If you don't ask, the answer is always no. So if you are interested, just start by asking. Ask for help. Ask for financial aid options. Ask for a tour. There are great support staff who will help you every step of the way. Don't be afraid to reach out to your professors, and ALWAYS apply for scholarships." She continued, "It is possible to attend RVC and get out of it debt-free. I truly believe I wouldn't have been able to do that anywhere else."