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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