Learning for the long haul

| July 06, 2007

Patterson is planning to go back for his bachelor’s degree when things settle down with his new job. He’s considering criminal psychology, so he can help the mentally ill.

“Not too many people my age get the chance to start over,” he says. “But it’s never too late to finish your dreams.”

Finding Your Course
Almost every major university and many small ones offer online courses, so there’s plenty to choose from. An Internet search is ideal for finding – and narrowing down – your choices.

You may want to pursue a degree – associate’s, bachelor’s or graduate – or just take some classes for fun. There are courses available in everything from accounting to philosophy and creative writing to trucking business.

Before you settle on a school, determine whether it is a fully accredited institution. There are fraudulent degree programs, so make sure you choose a reputable one.

A Unique Opportunity
Sitton Motor Lines offers scholarships to drivers and their families

Driver Mike Yunek was greeted with a new prospect at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., this March. Sitton Motor Lines, the Joplin, Mo.-based van fleet he drives for, was announcing a recruiting and retention program unique to the trucking industry – awarding full and partial scholarships to drivers and drivers’ families to attend a degree program at Joplin-based Missouri Southern State University.

Brian Sitton, COO of the 450-truck fleet, says the program sprang from a company connection to Jack Spurlin, vice president of lifelong learning at MSSU, who proposed the partnership in conversation with Sitton’s Director of Customer Service Jason Spurlin (Jack’s son), who’d heard from drivers about their desire to obtain four-year degrees.

The program is set to begin this fall, with a maximum of 6 credit hours for drivers wishing to participate in distance-learning courses in law enforcement, general studies, economics and finance, marketing/management, nursing, criminal justice, accounting, international business and health science. Sitton will pay for 50 percent of tuition to the first 50 drivers to sign up. Tuition overall at MSSU is $170 per credit hour.

The driver must maintain a minimum average of 9,500 miles per month and a 2.0 (C) grade point average. And after that first semester, drivers can apply for a gold scholarship, which will be awarded to the top 10 percent of applicants – winners will receive full tuition for up to 12 hours worth of courses, textbook expenses included.

The same goes for the drivers’ families, one member of the family at a time. Jack Spurlin says this is what really makes the program unique: “We work with several area companies who have scholarship programs, but I don’t know of any company who’s extended this benefit to the employee’s family.”

“When I was younger,” says Yunek, “I chose the Marine Corps instead of college. With this, I can put my daughters through school. They’re far enough apart at 12 and 15. They’re both thinking about college at this point, and my youngest is extremely intelligent – she’ll go a long way with this.”

Recruiter Kurtis Denton says if a driver signs up, the company will debit his weekly paycheck $50, depositing that money into a savings fund until his portion of the fall tuition is met, $450 for 6 hours. He also says Sitton will get a discount on tuition from MSSU once the volume of program participants is built up. “And the more we get, the more they’ll cut off of it,” says Denton.

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