Iowa Woman to Graduate College After 19 Years in School

Kathy Vitzthum Graduate College Many tuition-paying parents hope their kids avoid the "five-year plan," when students take an extra year to finish. But in the case of Iowa State student Kathy Vitzthum, her 19-year plan was not only supported by her parents, but her husband and kids gave the thumbs up as well. This May, she'll have the diploma to prove her hard work paid off.

No e-mails to check

Kathy worked at Electronic Technology Corp. (now Micrel Semiconductor) when her boss dangled a promotion in front of her. The catch -- she had to take some accounting classes. With two small children, she worried how school would fit in alongside her full-time job.

When she started taking classes, there were no assignments to be e-mailed because the Internet wasn't ubiquitous yet. Apple was just starting to put computers on consumer desks. Neither Justin Bieber, nor his older girlfriend Selena Gomez, had been born. Twitter was something real birds did. And from the beginning until now, her fellow students were years younger than she.

"Sometimes it was hard, but most of the time it was a lot of fun," Vitzthum tells AOL Jobs. "I was fortunate to meet some super nice individuals along the way. Most of my projects went well with all of us pitching in. I hope they would say the same about me."

Everyone pitches in

While Vitzthum studied, her husband took over many parenting responsibilities. When her day job competed with class work, she brought her skills from working in accounting to balancing time.

"In the beginning, I would make a spreadsheet figuring out how many additional hours I would need to work each day and when I would be gone for class," she says.

If you're wondering how much a 19-year education costs, tuition reimbursement from her company came to the rescue. Surely paying credit by credit wasn't the cheapest approach, but it's what worked. Since she started and tuition has greatly increased, Vitzthum has paid more of the costs over time.

Her parents were supportive too. A family tradition of a large gift upon college graduation came early. Eleven years early, in fact, because her father knew he wouldn't live to see her graduate. The gift, a curio cabinet, served as constant reminder and motivation to stay in school.

"I do hope that I set a good example to our children that you have to finish something that you start," she says.

Free time

Now that Vitzthum will have a little more free time, she hopes to return to a love of pleasure reading.

"I am excited to read the 'not so new' Mary Higgins Clark book that my mother gave me six months ago!" she says. "I love to read and I am looking forward to reading something that I don't have to take a test on."

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I started my college degree in 1974 by attending at Indiana University full time. I finished an Associates in 2008 a the College of Southern Maryland using the GI Bill after retiring from 20 years on active duty in the military. It took me over 34 years to get my degree. I have her beat.

May 02 2011 at 7:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


May 02 2011 at 5:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It took me 33 years literally to get my Bachelor's in Nursing-from 1976 to 2009. Working nights got married, had 4 kids, moved cross country, etc. that all delayed me.

May 02 2011 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It took me 21 years from the time I started college, in 1976 at age 17, until I obtained my first bachelor's degree in 1997 at age 38. I kept changing majors, changing interests, working more, working less, taking a class here and a class there, joining the Army, getting married, just doing a lot of different things with my life. I don't regret that it took so long. I learned a lot of things, both in college and out of college, along the way. And once I finally settled down to the final push to get my degree, I appreciated my courses that much more. It wasn't the most efficient way, but I never had to take out a student loan. I also had the freedom to pursue all my interests, including biochemistry, chemistry, biology, medieval and renaissance history, English literature, Russian language, international relations, economics and engineering. I don't consider myself intellectual or particularly well-educated, but I don't regret anything I learned on this journey. It's all come in handy at one time or another.

May 02 2011 at 2:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


May 02 2011 at 1:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Congratulations are certainly due to you for your persistance and determination! Way to go!

May 02 2011 at 1:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have discovered, a lot of women continue to go to college to find a husband. This is no myth. Most women think if they can find a man taking legal courses or medical courses they will be set for life as a doctors wife or lawyers wife. Wow! I guess you would have to do the math to figure out if it 's worth 19 years and around $250,000 in student loans to find a man. If you marry a lawyer or doctor you will probaby re-coup your investment. Personally, I think I would go crazy, if not blind preparing for all those exams.

May 02 2011 at 12:51 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

"What, Sarah Palin has a degree?"... Yes, she does. As a candidate, she actually released her college records, unlike our "most transparent administration" president. So, you made a snide comment about Palin that isn't true. Unless your accomplishments excede hers, that makes your behavior look very petty. Why not ask Barry what grades he got in college and then we can compare. Wouldn't it be embarassing if he really was a poor student? If you recall, after all the "bush is stupid, Kerry is smart" media coverage it turned out that Bush got better grades than Kerry. I suspect that is exactly why Barry won't fess up about his college years. We'll probably never know because he's wierdly secretive about things he should be proud of... or should he?

May 02 2011 at 12:16 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wilkesgm's comment

Bitter a bit?

May 02 2011 at 5:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Hey Gary! Maybe Sarah and I are related. Ya never know!

May 01 2011 at 10:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Hey Bob, don't "feel sorry" for me. It has just been a long road, but I have had a lot of fun moments along the way, difficult at time, but I have been helped by the one above

May 01 2011 at 10:13 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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