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Getting Schooled

By Joe Wessels · June 3rd, 2009 · Wessels

I’m Joe Wessels, HSD.

Yeah, that’s right, I have a high school diploma. I earned it in 1992 from Colerain High School.

After graduation, I spent a fall cutting grass and shoveling frozen dirt from one pile to another at Maketewah Country Club. Then I took the golf course superintendent’s advice and insistence and enrolled in college.

The groundskeeper work convinced me — though I never seriously doubted it — that I would need to attend college to get the kind of job I liked. I think it showed in my attitude toward the manual labor.
I enrolled at the University of Cincinnati and found that I was perfectly content — and much preferred — spending my first two years at Raymond Walters College, the branch in Blue Ash, where all the main campus frustrations were more centrally located (in one hallway, to be exact). The professors were top-notch and the class sizes smaller.

Eventually I made it down to the Clifton Heights campus and thrived. Then I became a statistic — one of the approximately 33 percent of college stu•dents who never finish, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Now I want to go back.

It’s not that I don’t have enough credit hours to graduate — I earned 230-odd credits years ago — but I was indecisive in choosing a major. Once I finally settled on psychology, I wrapped up with, by my count, three classes left to go.

One of the holes is Dr.

Joel Warm’s much-feared Psychology 381: Statistics and Research. If you’ve attended UC in the past 30 years and majored in psychology, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I somehow managed to wiggle around that class for years, but now it’s time to face the music.

Part of what helped me decide to finish my degree — aside from constant nagging (they call it encouragement) from parents, friends, doctors and strangers on the street — was the discovery that paying for it might be a snap now. A part of the stimulus bill passed by Congress earlier this year was a new and improved Hope Tax Credit, which was enacted into law in 1997 by President Clinton.

The new law expands upon the old one, extend•ing eligibility to all four years of undergraduate work, upping the tuition credit to $2,500 (100 percent of the first $2,000 and 25 percent of the second $2,000) and making up to 40 percent of it refundable, meaning it could wipe out a tax bill and give some money back for books, miscellaneous expenses, etc. Though it seems likely that such a popular move by legislators would be extended, the tax credit is guaranteed to last only through this year and next.

Tuition for one quarter on UC’s main campus is now more than $3,100.

Classes in the summer quarter start June 22. I haven’t registered yet but have spoken to some helpful people there — you need helpful people on a campus like UC’s — and expect things to go smoothly. It appears I might even be able to take a couple of those classes I need online, which should be an interesting experience.

I have some theories about why I never finished and even more excuses. For years I tried to explain to all my naggers/supporters that a career in journalism simply doesn’t require a college degree. If you can ask questions and write, most editors will overlook the missing diploma.

In fact, I know clever journalists who never finished college and some who never went. I also know more than a few who were super close to getting doctorate degrees and didn’t finish.

But now things have changed. Journalism is in serious decline. Anyone hiring probably couldn’t let me do the type of journalism I want to do and think needs to be done.

During my entire adult life I’ve never once had to look for a job. They always seemed to find me. My luck finally ran out, and it turns out the jobs I’m looking at require college degrees.

So off I go … to add a few more letters behind my name.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: joe@joewessels.net



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