USF’s Bachelor of General Studies Graduates 101st Student

This summer the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program graduated its 101st student, an impressive number for a relatively new program. Since enrolling its first 10 students in 2009, the program has helped people of all ages and backgrounds return to college after a gap in their education. Students who are accepted into the degree completion program, work with an advisor to choose an academic path that fits their educational and professional goals.

"Typically, I see students who reach the glass ceiling, who won't be promoted beyond where they are now," said Dr. Carol Harneit, Innovative Education assistant director and Bachelor of General Studies program advisor. Lack of degree also hits the unemployed especially hard. "Before, it didn't matter as much. Now, in the job market, they see the disadvantage of not having a bachelors."

Contrary to the misconception, the BGS isn't for undecided students already enrolled at USF. Instead, it's designed for those who have been out of college for three or more years. In the BGS program, "students take the same USF courses as any other student and meet the same criteria for their degree. What is different," Dr. Harneit explains, "is the number of hours required in the concentrations versus a traditional major." Concentrations are between 24-27 credits, including core courses, electives, and a capstone (compared to 45-60 credits in a traditional major).

April Walker, a recent graduate from the BGS program, was out of college for five years prior to entering the BGS program. According to Dr. Harneit this isn't unusual. "I've seen transcripts from the late sixties and every decade after that. It's not unusual to see a 20-year gap."

Walker's reason for enrolling in the program was dually motived; she was seeking to enhance her career opportunities but also, she said, "I didn't want to look back over my life and realize that I did not finish something that I started."

The path to graduation has taken a few twists and turns during her time in the program. Walker overcame several personal challenges including the death of a family member. She said, "I learned that sometimes the journey to the pathway to success is not always an easy route."

Dr. Harneit has heard many similar stories of struggle and triumph. Which is why the number 101 is so exciting. "I feel like it's a tangible way to show we are reaching a lot of students." More than 100 active BGS students are scheduled to take courses in the Fall 2014 semester. With these numbers, it's easy to see that the program is making great strides. And so are the students. With degree in hand they are able to go on to graduate school or obtain promotions previously out of reach.

For adults considering a returning to college, Walker advises, "I believe when you come back to school you will have a lot of insight to offer in the classroom from work and life experiences. You will never regret finishing your degree."

Learn how to apply to the Bachelor of General Studies program.

Special scholarship opportunities may be available to qualifying students with the Osher Reentry Scholarship.