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Chris Bennett's way: A 4 year degree in 3. Online. With no debt

Fairplay, Kentuckian's route to bachelor's unconventional, for now. His way may not be for everyone, but it demonstrates that there are many different ways to educational success.

This story compiled from several sources, edited by CM

Local electrician Chris Bennett graduated from Northern Kentucky University on December 15, 2012.

It is not uncommon for a citizen of Adair County to achieve a bachelors degree from a state university, but his unconventional approach is causing a much needed revolution in the higher education field. Bennett completed his college degree completely online, taking classes through the KCTCS system, with Somerset Community College being his home school, and finally finishing his degree at NKU

He did it while continuing to work full time, and most remarkably, with no educational debt whatsoever.

Dream of a four-year degree a long time goal

For many years Bennett wanted to complete a college degree, but logistics, business responsibilities and the every increasing costs of higher education had complicated his ability to achieve a degree. He says he inquired at the local private institutions about obtaining a degree, but finances had kept him from enrolling in Columbia or Campbellsville. It was no better when he looked at two of the major online universities. Costs, again was the deciding factor.

"His isn't the only way, but it is an excellent new way for an Adair Countian to achieve a college dream," his friend, Adair County Superintendent Alan Reed said. "But Chris Bennett is riding the cusp of a new wave in higher education. In August of 2009, just three years ago, he enrolled at Somerset Community College, opting for an Associate's Degree through the on-line program in business management. As a working partner in Bennett and DeVore Electrical Contracting, it would have been impossible for Chris to have enrolled in college any other way." But he did. Reed said that while he's hoping there is no diminution of traditional college students here," he sees online as more than augmenting Adair County's campaign to better training for everyone.
Lull in housing construction actually offered an opportunity to follow dream
Inspired by the national economic crisis and the faltering local economy, he decided in the fall of 2009 that he would take classes through Somerset Community College at their Russell Springs location.

He knew he would have to drive to Somerset for part of his classes but financially it would still be cheaper than going to a closer school, he said.

SCC advisor told him online is not for everybody

When he went to Somerset community college to register for classes, he met with an advisor who told him about their online program. His adviser warned him that online classes were not for all students.

But it was for Bennett. He's always marched to his own drum. Analyzing means to get to desired result, rather than following conventional routes.

The thought of online classes was appealing to him.

In just a little while, he found it really suited his style.

After he completed a few classes he developed a routine, which made online classes easier for him. He began taking 15-21 credit hours per semester so he could finish his degree quicker.

All the while, he continued to work fulltime as an electrician.

First college degree was an associates from Somerset Community College

Bennett achieved an associates degree in Business Management from Somerset community college with concentrations in finance, marketing, and accounting.

He graduated with high honors and then transferred to Northern Kentucky University in the fall of 2011 where he completed his final 45 hours, earning a bachelors degree in Organizational Leadership with a minor in History.

By choosing this method of education, he says, he was able to work full time and still go to school.

For him, the state school system, online opportunity was lowest cost path

The KCTCS program along with the state university system was the lowest cost path for Bennett to earn a degree in Kentucky. Bennett won an academic scholarship at NKU that paid for 50% of his tuition; he received a partial federal Pell grant and a state CAP grant that is funded by the Kentucky lottery. This allowed him to receive a good education, without the burden of excessive student loans to cover tuition.

Bennett believes he got an excellent overall education with the online approach. He believes that, as with all college professors, online has a mix of quality. "In regular classrooms, you have instructors who are really good, some who are poor, and some who are mediocre," he said. It was the same with the online instructors, he said. That being said, He was very impressed with the majority of teachers he had at Somerset Community College, and he can think of four outstanding professors he had at Northern Kentucky University.

He also had several professors that he feels did not really understand the proper way to teach an online class. There's a difference, he says. Online teaching takes a new way of thinking

"Teaching an online class requires a new way of thinking, when it comes to higher education. Professors must also embrace technology, which they can even use to their advantages. "Two of my professors were disabled, but that didn't present a handicap online as it would have in the classroom.

Chris Bennett believes this is an excellent way for them to be productive contributing members of society.

Interaction with pretty college girls a downside to online

There are some downfalls to an online education. "By far the worst part of taking classes online is the utter lack of personal interaction with college girls," he said.

Even though his route was more independent way, he had lots of help

For all his admirable independence, for all his ability to be a self-starter, and for his incredible self-discipline, he insists he couldn't have done it without the support of a lot of people close to him. "I had a lot of support from my family, friends, and from my business partner Lonnie DeVore, which made a huge difference finishing his college degree.

He says he feels very blessed that he was able to finally achieve his college goals.

Wants to get masters, become advisor to developing online program

Bennett plans to begin master's degree in the fall of 2013, and is currently looking at different schools and programs.

After taking more than 120 credit hours online, he says he would someday like to work with a college or university to help them develop strong online programs in different subject areas and specialized categories.

"Clearly online classes will be the wave of the future," he says, and thinks it offers a great potential for area colleges. "It can bring in additional revenues for local colleges," he said, "and with the proper use of technology, and out-of-the-box thinking, professors of the future can deliver great educational opportunities to people of all ages, walks of life, and in remote geographic locations for less money."
This story is the first of what we hope will be several stories of educational and career success stories. The next will be about an Adair County High School student who has the bright prospect of attending her dream school with a "full ride" for a $200,000 plus degree. It's already in the works.

This story was posted on 2013-01-13 09:46:21
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