Finishing College Pays Off for IT Professional

Finishing College Pays Off for IT Professional LaTonya Cockrell’s first pass at a bachelor’s degree got her within sight of the finish line.

LaTonya Cockrell’s first pass at a bachelor’s degree got her within sight of the finish line. But it took discovering the University of Arkansas System eVersity to get her the last few yards.

Cockrell, a native of Springfield, Ark., earned an associate’s degree from what is now University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (UACCM), after which she dove right into her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway. “That didn’t pan out as planned,” she said. “I was only, like, 30 hours away from graduating when I quit UCA. I was working for Dillard’s store systems in their data center for 10-and-a-half years.”

With a family to care for, Cockrell’s life was full, but coming so close to a degree always nagged at her. She remained steadily employed over the years, most recently by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, but the money wasn’t what it could have been. Finally one day, she made up her mind to change the direction of her life.

“I spoke to the IT director [at work] and I was asking him about school,” she said. “It’s so expensive. I looked into several online colleges and I just couldn’t afford it. He said, ‘Why don’t you check out eVersity?’ I was like, ‘eVersity? I’ve never heard of that.’” Cockrell looked it up, nonetheless, and was impressed by what she saw. Unlike the other options on her radar, eVersity offered the flexibility she needed at a price she could afford.

“I had two younger children, so I had to keep working,” she said. “I couldn’t quit work, and I couldn’t go on a college campus because that meant trying to find a babysitter and that’s more money. So, I’m very grateful for eVersity.”

Despite having found a school that checked all of the boxes, Cockrell still recalls being very nervous when she signed up for her first eVersity class.

“I really wanted to do it and I was just gung-ho about it like, ‘I’m going to do this. This is one thing that I’m going to finish,’” she said.

She admits the thought of online classes and not having a professor in sight to answer questions about assignments presented a challenge in her mind.

“But after the first class I took, which was life science, I was so at ease,” she said. “I was just ready to do this and as time went by, I’m just like, it’s not going fast enough, you know? I was really eager.”

After a time, Cockrell also came to appreciate the way the program inspired her to be accountable for her own success. “It comes with a lot of responsibility because you’re not seeing your instructor on a daily basis,” she said. “You do have to have a lot of self-discipline. A lot of times, if you’re younger, you may take that for granted. You don’t have anyone telling you, ‘Hey, I didn’t get that assignment from you.’”

Now with her associate’s and bachelor’s degrees from eVersity in hand, Cockrell has changed careers at the Rockefeller Institute and taken a job in her IT field of study there. She sees a lot of opportunities opening for her that were previously beyond her reach. She said she would recommend eVersity to anyone who, like herself, got off track and is looking for a way to finish their degree, even people who would never think of setting foot on a campus after having not taken a college class in years.

“When you’re my age, you may feel a little intimidated having to go onto a campus and you’re there with 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds,” Cockrell said. “I really do think eVersity is designed for someone who didn’t finish, someone who may be a single parent, or even if you’re married and with kids and you have to work, this program was designed for that. I told the people at eVersity that this was one of the best programs that could ever have come about.”