The road to earning a degree isn’t always a smooth one. There can be unexpected dips and potholes in your plans. Challenges can become barriers that block your way.

That’s what happened to Robert Herrera. He was well on his way to a BS in criminal justice at City University of Seattle when he exhausted all his student loans and had to take a break from school. By that time, he’d been attending classes for four years.

“I put my goal on the back burner to do whatever was needed to provide for my family of four,” he says.

Financial issues are one of the top three reasons students “stop out” of schools, explains Britney Taylor, readmissions specialist at CityU. The other two main concerns that cause a break in education are work reasons like a job change, job loss or a promotion, and personal reasons which include changes or added responsibilities with family.

High on the list of those responsibilities has to be having a baby. Tara Mowan says she didn’t handle stress well while she was pregnant, so she took a break from her education.

“My plan was to skip a quarter, but that turned into a year,” she says. “My baby is now 16 months old and that still makes it difficult to get things done at times, but not like when I was pregnant.”


Both Herrera and Mowan returned to classes with Taylor’s expert help. Herrera had been out of school for two years and had given up on his goal of a bachelor’s degree when Taylor reached out to him.

“I explained my situation to her, and she was adamant about getting me back on track,” says Herrera. “In my opinion she went well above and beyond because she was able to get my first class waived off and set me up with the financial adviser to walk me through their new financial plan programs.”

“The majority of returning students I’ve worked with have been out of school between one and five years,” Taylor says. “But the timing varies widely, and I’ve worked to re-enroll students who have taken a 10-year-plus break.”

Make the best of your time away from classes. Consider the reason for the time gap and see if anything can be addressed to allow for a timely return, says Taylor. Talk to someone at your school that might have ideas or resources to help you get back on track sooner.

“Take advantage of work trainings and keep in contact with an adviser regarding credits and their transferability,” notes Taylor.

You might want to approach your employer about reimbursement programs or even save up funds for your future schooling through a payroll deduction plan.

Taylor also says to get clear on your direction and how your specific program directly benefits you and your career.

Herrera has his direction top of mind. He currently works for the Department of Defense, so he’s hoping to apply his degree in criminal justice (he did complete his coursework) to his work down the line.

“I didn’t need my degree for my work now, but it was important for me to complete it and show my kids not to give up,” says Herrera.

When a student is ready to return to classes, Taylor likes to talk to them on the phone and let them know how she’ll work with them and what they can expect.

“From there it’s a matter of being super resourceful and collaborative to help returning students reach their goal of crossing the stage,” she says.

Mowan is currently pursuing her goal of a degree in business management with a focus on the material management track as a full-time student. She expects to take three courses a quarter for three more quarters. Then she’ll have a BA in business management.

“It’s well worth it to get back on the education track, even if you only take one class at a time,” says Taylor. “You might feel like it’s going to take you forever to finish but taking that first small step gets you just that much closer to your goal.”

City University of Seattle is accredited through the doctoral level. Find programs in business, leadership, education, health and human services, computer and information systems. CityU is ranked as a 2022 Best Online Bachelor program by US News & World Report.