Almost 30 percent of BYU students complete their degrees within four years. Overall, 79 percent of BYU students complete their degrees within three to six years, depending on the degree. The remaining 21 percent of students drop out of BYU for various reasons, but many of these students leave school when they marry and start a family.
“It was hard, but I had to go,” Annie Osmond said. “I knew I would learn things in class that night that would help me be a better mother by the time they wake up in the next morning.”
Osmond finished her college degree through BYU’s Division of Continuing Education. Continuing Education has become a popular way for returning students to complete their studies.
Continuing Education helps students who have been away from BYU for at least two years.
The division reaches out to students who left BYU before finishing their education; those students can then major in general studies.
Trav Johnson has been the director of the bachelor of general studies program for more than two years. He has a background in psychology and faculty development, and he has worked at BYU for more than 14 years.
Johnson said the general studies program is successful. The students range in age from their 20s to their 80s—an 86-year-old recently completed his degree.
Johnson said he is impressed by the hard work of the students coming through the program.
“I get to talk to the students at graduation. I have been impressed at their dedication,” Johnson said. “It takes a lot of dedication to finish a program away from campus.”
BYU’s Continuing Education does its own admissions and advising to assist students in completing the program. Students have eight years to complete the program, Johnson said, and they can take all their courses through Independent Study.
Johnson said the job is meaningful to him.
“It’s very rewarding,” Johnson said. “I knew what the program did before I took the job and I can see how important this work is.”
Students who have at least 90 credit hours can enroll directly into the program, even if they left BYU less than two years ago.
Johnson said being able to finally earn a college degree helps students tremendously.
“The program is really important to them,” Johnson said. “It means so much to so many students.”
2016-graduate Osmond said she decided to finish her degree to help her family. Osmond received her degree in general studies with an emphasis in family life and a minor in communications.
Osmond said it was sometimes hard to be a student while raising a family, but her degree helped her become a better person and serve her family.
It was especially difficult to leave her children and husband at night to go to class at the Salt Lake Center, Osmond said. Her oldest child often begged her not to leave.
Osmond said she encourages everyone to finish their degree if possible and recommends the general studies program.
“With more education you have a better understanding of the world, and you become a better person yourself,” Osmond said.
Jim Macedone, another graduate of the program, had a feeling he needed to finish his degree after being away from BYU for 15 years.
“I had that nagging feeling of not finishing what I had started,” Macedone said. “I was walking with my baby in the hallway here and saw the BGS logo on a bulletin board. I knew I wanted to finish.”
After being a graphic designer and ASL interpreter for many years, Macedone decided to complete his degree in general studies with an emphasis in family life. He said he wanted his degree to help him become a better dad and possibly choose a different career.
Macedone took most of his classes at the Salt Lake Center. Having deadlines with professors checking on him was more helpful than doing Independent Study, he said. He praised it for the small class sizes and the personal attention from professors.
Macedone is a father of five and had to juggle family responsibilities with his academic pursuits. He said his wife was incredible supportive.
“My wife would always say, ‘The time is going to pass anyways,”’ Macedone said. “I knew if time was passing, I should be doing something worthwhile. The program was hard and a sacrifice but so rewarding.”
Macedone praised the academic advisers and suggested students considering the program visit with them. They helped him learn about academic options.
“They bent over backwards for me,” Macedone said. “I even asked them if they were this caring about everyone, or was it just because I was old!”