Guidelines for CU Complete

Participants are generally former students who are 25 or older, have a GPA of 2.0 or higher and have completed at least 75 percent of their degree.

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U niversity of Colorado graduate Annie Barr knew she wouldn't graduate in the traditional four years, but she never imagined her college career would span nearly a decade.

Barr, 26, planned to complete her bachelor's in Communications and German in the fall of 2008 -- four and a half years after beginning college -- but some missed credits and financial strain caused her to quit school without her degrees.

"I found out somewhere in there that I had some core credits that weren't approved from when I studied abroad," Barr said. "By then I had a full-time job and I wasn't eligible for traditional financial aid, which I relied on to pay for school, so I just kind of pushed it aside."

For nearly four years, Western Civilization, a freshman-level course, stood between Barr and her diploma. But in May she became a college grad with the help of the CU Complete program.

CU Complete, a program hosted by Continuing Education, was funded by a $25,000 state grant in 2009 to help non-traditional students complete their bachelor's degrees.

Anne Heinz, the director of Continuing Education, said the goal is to provide assistance to students who completed at least 75 of their degree but were unable to finish. The program targets former students who are 25 and older and who left CU with a grade point average of 2.0 or higher.

Students are given financial support and advisers who can help them find programs that will fill their remaining requirements and fit their schedules.

"Life happens," Heinz said. "For a host of reasons, generally family issues or employment issues, students aren't always able to complete their degrees."

CU Complete has helped veterans, traveling musicians, students who are employed full-time and those with family obligations realize their dreams of a college degree.

So far, the program has re-enrolled more than 400 CU-Boulder students and has graduated 78 non-traditional students, Heinz said.

The program has served another 100 students who did not attend CU but are considering completing their degrees on the Boulder campus, she said.

"We even help our students who aren't in Boulder anymore find online classes that they didn't know they could take," Heinz said.

Returning to college wasn't easy for Barr, who said she had little self-motivation and went back mainly to ease the pressure from her friends and family.

"When you're working all day, and traveling, going home to write an essay about Greek migration during the third century is not what you want to do," Barr said. "It just doesn't fit with where you're directing all your energy."

Despite her initial hesitation, Barr said she learned a lot from the course and that the reward was well worth the work that she put in.

"When I was done, I had such a weight lifted off my shoulders and was really happy to have it at end of day."

Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter: @SoonerReporter.