Two words to describe Craig Kilgo: hard working and committed. These qualities have served the aspiring college graduate well as he completes his bachelor’s degree through the online, self-paced University of Wisconsin Flexible Option Information Science and Technology program.
“Flex is about work ethic,” says Kilgo. “This was exactly the program I needed. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity as soon as possible.”
Early career success
Kilgo’s journey to his degree began in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a member of the 2002 Junior National Rowing Team in high school. His athletic talents landed him at Cornell University, but the high cost of an Ivy League education soon took a toll. Not willing to walk away, Kilgo took a job as a student assistant in a Cornell-run research institute to help with expenses.
“As time went on, I found myself transitioning from being a student worker to a full-time Cornell employee,” Kilgo says. “I decided I wanted to get out of upstate New York, so I moved to Washington, D.C., and entered the workforce full time. Things were going well, so I didn’t think too much about the fact that I hadn’t completed my college degree.”
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Competency-based degrees tailored to adult life
The skills Kilgo acquired at the research institute provided a solid foundation for his career. He’s spent several years analyzing healthcare data and managing healthcare applications in the military health system, and currently, he serves as a project controller for the U.S. Department of Defense. Even with a successful career, Kilgo recently found himself considering the importance of having a bachelor’s degree.
“In the back of my mind, I had thought about going back to school to finish my degree, but I never found the right program. I didn’t have time to attend classes in person and honestly, I didn’t want to pay for the ‘extras’ I didn’t need—such as dorms and campus fees.”
Then one day, he saw a Wall Street Journal article about UW Flexible Option.
“I thought, ‘Perfect, this is exactly what I want,’” Kilgo says. “I didn’t have any hesitation at all. Once I decided to do it, my focus became how quickly I could get started and how much I could take on.”
“It works great for me because it’s about using my knowledge, building on it, and taking assessments when I’m ready.”
Kilgo began the online Bachelor of Science in Information Science and Technology program in February with the goal of completing his degree in three or four subscription periods (the equivalent of nine or 12 months of learning). “I know that’s a fairly ambitious undertaking,” notes Kilgo.
The perks of online flexible programs
He says he enjoyed the enrollment process, specifically his interaction with his Academic Success Coach. He also appreciates the flexibility afforded by competency-based degrees–he was able to create his own schedule and never has to go to a campus.
“It works great for me because it’s about using my knowledge, building on it, and taking assessments when I’m ready,” says Kilgo.
Another plus, Kilgo notes, is the confidence he gains from learning new skills and passing assessments using the real-world experience he already has.
“Flex is one option that helps make a degree reasonable, especially if you go with the ‘all-you-can-learn’ model. The more you work, the more you get.“
“I’ve had a couple of pretty big assignments that were exactly the challenge I needed,” Kilgo says. “One involved systems analysis. That’s what I do! It really helped me bring my real-world experience to the table. This was the perfect course to build confidence and do an even better job. That’s the strength of the Flex program.”
Affordability of Flex degrees
Kilgo believes Flex provides students a solid return on investment. He says paying one rate and taking on as many competencies as he can handle, without paying the additional costs he might face in a more traditional setting, helps make his Flex program more affordable.
“I did an analysis of the cost-to-benefit ratio of a traditional versus a nontraditional degree for one of my assignments. It didn’t specifically name, but was centered on the Flex model,” Kilgo says. “It’s hard to get a good ROI on college. I was setting myself up for $200,000 in debt at Cornell. For some, depending on the major, that might be something they can recover after a few years in the workforce. But for many, people might start to question, ‘Is it worth the degree?’ Flex is one option that helps make a degree reasonable, especially if you go with the ‘all-you-can-learn’ model. The more you work, the more you get. You’re paying for what you need, nothing more. It’s perfect.”
Rewarding, respected credential
As Kilgo continues to work toward his degree, he says he’s excited about the challenges of each new competency and the knowledge he’ll acquire. He says he’s even more eager to see the rewards that will come when he graduates.
“If you want to market yourself outside of your current company, or even higher up in that company, those hiring managers might see a good résumé with great experience, but the first line of that résumé is usually education,” Kilgo says. “A lot of places aren’t going to look past that first line. It doesn’t matter how good the work is that you’ve done, not having that education knocks you out before you even get started. My new degree will equip me to get my foot through the door for positions that I know I’m qualified to do, but have been held back from because of my lack of a degree.”
To find out more about the UW Flexible Option and whether this competency-based education option is a good fit for you, call a friendly enrollment adviser today at 1-877-895-3276.
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