After two decades, mom joins son by returning to college

Sue Pearson was one test away from earning her associate’s degree in accounting from the University of South Florida when she decided to leave college for personal reasons.

According to Sue, it’s been her life’s only regret.

Now, nearly 25 years and three children later, she’s less than a year away from earning her degree at Dalton State.

While searching for information about dual enrollment for her oldest son, she came across an article about state schools accepting more earned credits. Excited to learn more, she visited Dalton State and learned that the school would take all of her credits.

Sue admits that she did not make the choice to go back to school to get a better job or make more money. Her motivation was more personal than that.

Adopted at birth, Sue did not know a lot about her biological family. Recently though, she discovered that her biological grandfather was actually part of NASA’s lead science team for the Apollo rockets. Her family experiences served as a wake-up call. She knew she could do it.

Additionally, Sue noted, she has always told her kids that going to college and earning degree wasn’t a choice — it was a requirement. It was just as much a reminder for her. She knew she had to.

Nervous and unsure, she enrolled at Dalton State.

Much to her surprise, she’ll walk away with her degree in hand with no debt and without paying a single penny to Dalton State. Her tuition, books and fees were covered in full by federal and state aid, just by filling out the FAFSA.

Her experience has continued to exceed expectations inside the classroom as well.

Sue has found that course material comes more naturally to her now, and with increased focus and maturity, she’s been able to manage her time more effectively and achieve better grades.

Initially, she wasn’t confident that she’d mesh well socially with younger students. But, according to Sue, her life experiences have allowed her to serve as a mentor to her classmates who now look up to her and often seek her counsel inside and outside of the classroom.

She’s even lab partners with a student who graduated high school with her oldest son — who’s also taking classes at Dalton State.

“I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to connect with students who were so much younger than me, but it’s turned out to be interesting, rewarding and a lot of fun,” Pearson said.

She’s done it all with three kids and a job.

“I was so nervous about being able to juggle it all — the work, my kids and life in general. But, I’ve been able to do it, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.”

Two and a half decades later, and it couldn’t have been a better time for Sue or for the state of Georgia.

Her story ties in to a much larger need for the state. It’s estimated that by 2025, 60 percent of jobs will require a college credential. Today, less than 45 percent of our state’s workforce is prepared to such a level, creating a need for an additional 250,000 graduates beyond current graduation rates in order to meet these demands and remain economically competitive.

Through the “Go Back. Move Ahead.” campaign, the state now offers more flexible course options, easier ways to transfer earned credits, additional online courses and personal academic advisers to meet the unique needs of adult learners.

Sue is one of many success stories for “Go Back. Move Ahead.” and adult learners across the state, combatting common stereotypes and perceived difficulties for “nontraditional students.”

We’re looking forward to sharing a lot more.

If you or someone you know is interested in returning to college, learn more and connect with one of our advisers at