Toni Altenburg

I have no words to express the gratitude I feel for Ashford and all the advisors who helped me along the way.


When Toni Altenburg of Macon, GA first went to college at the age of 18, she flunked out within the first year. Though one of her professors made her promise to return to school as soon as possible, she didn’t. “I left my dream of a college education far behind me,” she says.

Toni took a few classes here and there over the next few years, but couldn’t quiet the voice in her head that told her she’d never make it all the way to a degree. That voice in her head had further substance since, as a child, Toni suffered repeated sexual abuse. “My perpetrator told me I’d never amount to anything,” she says. “And for a long time, I believed him. Every time I would give up, I would feel further defeated and incapable.”

Nearly two decades later, after a successful career in the software industry, it occurred to Toni that she had advanced as far as she possibly could. Something else nagged at her, too. She says, “No matter how successful I was, I knew I wasn't genuinely helping people. I asked myself what it would matter if, when I died, I had reached success but had not made any meaningful difference in anyone's life.”

Toni credits her mother, who had enrolled in college in her mid-40s and even lived in a dorm with decades-younger students, with giving her the final push of inspiration she needed to go back to school and finish her education. She soon found herself gathering transcripts and talking with an Admissions Counselor at Ashford University. “Being in school again was not easy for me,” she says. “Nonetheless, no matter how frustrated I became or how many times I found myself crying from sheer mental exhaustion, quitting was somehow no longer an option.”

Three and a half years later, Toni had finally proven her abuser – and herself – wrong. At the age of 54, she graduated in October 2013 with two Bachelor’s degrees from Ashford, one in Psychology and one in Applied Behavioral Science. Her added accomplishments include graduating Summa Cum Laude and with distinctions as a Golden Key International Honour Society recipient and Alpha Sigma Lambda member.

Additionally, Toni now works at an independent living facility for seniors, a first step toward making a career out of helping others. Her eventual goal is to open a non-profit residential facility for women who suffer from the devastating effects of childhood sexual abuse.

“I have no words to express the gratitude I feel for Ashford and all of the advisors who helped me along the way. I can't adequately quantify how blessed I feel to have finally finished…and I may not be done yet!”

Questions? Request Information