Student Success Stories:
Justin Grogan successfully balances work and school
It’s not always easy, but working full time and taking a full load of college classes can be done. Just ask Justin Grogan, who works 40 hours a week as night manager at G & W Foods in Willow Springs and takes at least 12 credit hours each semester at Missouri State University-West Plains.
"Sometimes it gets difficult," the 2015 graduate of Willow Springs High School admitted. "Last semester I took three online classes and two seated classes, which almost was too much, so I decided to take just 12 hours this semester, and I have really seen the difference in my stress level and having some extra time for myself."
Even though he still pulled a perfect 4.0 grade point average in his fall 2015 classes, he discovered quickly the amount of time he needed to study for those classes coupled with his job and other responsibilities left very little time to relax with family, friends and his girlfriend.
"Last semester, most of my spare time was spent on classes," he said. "This semester, it seems like I have more free time to do what I want. I've been able to have more time this semester to spend with friends and my girlfriend."
This semester, Justin has one online class and three seated classes, which bring him on campus on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. "I'm off work Tuesdays, and I'm done with classes at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, so I report for work at noon. On Thursdays, I have classes until 2 p.m., and I report for work at 3," he said. "I made sure I scheduled time in between my three seated classes so I could do homework, and on my days off from work, I stay home and do homework. This semester, I have an hour or two between classes, so I can go to Lybyer Technology Center to work on homework. I'm going to try to do the same for my fall classes."
As a student eligible for the state of Missouri's A+ Program, which covers tuition and basic fees for qualifying students who attend two-year colleges in the state, Justin has to take at least 12 hours each semester, which is considered a full load, to receive the funding.
That program coupled with his job at G & W Foods and a 2-3 hour job at Willow Springs High School collecting recyclables twice a week is making it possible for him to obtain the college education he always wanted with little expense. He also works as a Student Ambassador on campus, which provides a scholarship that covers the cost of his books.
"Through A+, working and scholarships, I've been able to save for my junior and senior years," he said, pointing out he plans to obtain a bachelor's degree through the Missouri State Outreach program on the West Plains campus. "I'm trying to make it where I don't have to take out student loans. I learned from my two older sisters, Amber and Tiffany, that it's best to try to pay for my education out of pocket, if at all possible."
Justin said he knew shortly after he began working at G & W Foods in the summer of 2013 he wanted to make a career out of retail and customer service, so he decided to pursue an associate's degree in business at Missouri State-West Plains after graduation. "I knew I wanted to be in this business, but I wanted to get my degree to have something to fall back on," he explained. "I think it will help me even at G & W. My experience and my degree will help me get a better job with the company or elsewhere."
Justin said he would encourage anyone who works full time and is interested in pursuing a college education to do so. "Try it out and find the best schedule for you. Online classes work for me some of the time, but consider them carefully, depending on your schedule. Also, don't overload yourself. Choose your classes wisely to give yourself the time needed to do well. Going at a slower pace is sometimes more beneficial than just getting it done," he said. "If you're not A+ eligible, there's nothing wrong with taking fewer classes and going to school part time. If you're able to do those comfortably, you can add from there."
For more information about the educational opportunities available through Missouri State-West Plains, call 417-255-7955. To learn how you can help support students like Justin Grogan, call the Missouri State-West Plains development office at 417-255-7240.