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Ashford was the perfect answer for my family, my job, and for me.


A few years ago, Brandon Hardin realized his high school diploma had taken him about as far as he was going to go. While the San Antonio native was happy working as a fraud analyst for a financial institution, he knew the day would come when he’d want something better, and he didn’t want to lose opportunities to more qualified candidates.

“In my job, a degree is needed [to advance], the high school diploma is no longer acceptable,” Hardin said at Ashford University’s 2015 Fall Commencement ceremony in San Diego.

“If you’re going to move up in the world, in any type of job, they’re going to be looking for that degree…for that factor, that you are trainable, that you are able to do this.”

Hardin is correct about the declining value of a high school diploma. A 2014 census analysis found that high school graduates earned just 62 percent of the typical salary of college graduates. The annual salary gap between the two was $17,500, a number that’s grown over the years.

Now, after earning his Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management from Ashford, Hardin no longer has to worry that his future hinges on a high school diploma.

“I’ve got opportunities where I can look for other positions to make more money, to have something better for my family and myself,” he said.

15 Years in the Making

Hardin’s journey to earning his degree wasn’t a straight line out of high school. Like many adult learners, he decided to take some time off, and he eventually got married and started a family. Hardin said his parents weren’t pushy when it came to college, but he’s going to take a different approach with his own kids.

“I can say proudly, ‘I’ve got my degree, see what it’s doing for me now?’” he said. “[I’m] setting the stage for my kids. I can’t ask them to go get the degree if I haven’t done it first.”

When he decided to go back to school, Hardin first attended a community college, but found it too difficult to balance work, school, and family responsibilities. Even the college’s online format wouldn’t fit his schedule because it required that he be physically present for his tests.

“That’s not convenient, I’m working during the day,” he said. “I can’t get up and do that.”

A friend recommended he try Ashford. Hardin enrolled and never looked back. Fifteen years after leaving high school, he crossed the stage at San Diego’s Viejas Arena with his college degree.

“Ashford was the perfect answer for my family, my job, and for me,” he said. “The nice thing is you have the structure, so you know what’s expected and what’s due, so there’s no guessing there.”

For all of its conveniences, online learning still requires a major commitment from college students. They must be self-motivated and realize that every success, large or small, brings them one step closer to a degree.

Hardin said the hardest part of his journey was making the first commitment to school. Once he started getting on a roll in his classes, “The last three years went by really quick.”

“Before you know it, you’re going to see that light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve got to do it, you owe it to yourself.”


Retrieved from, “Earnings gap grows between adults with college degrees vs. high school diplomas”

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