My one-year bachelor degree

This endeavor began as a 4-week BA, which turned into a 3-month BA, then during my final courses while preparing my capstone topics for Thomas Edison State University my entire world came crashing down. I went to Federal prison.

It’s now a 1-year Bachelor degree… give or take.

With pretty much everything in my life, I’m sure to do my due diligence by finding the most time-efficient and cost-effective method. My desire to be resourceful (i.e., cheap) comes from growing up the way we did.


We depended on double-stack coupons and food stamps. I lived in a home where you only ate out if there were free meals for 10 & under or if there were coupons from a weekly circular.

Our vacations were a few days each year, usually at a Howard Johnson during Tax Refund season. We had dollar store snacks stuffed in our pockets at the movies. Rather than rushing to tennis practice or a piano recital, we watched Fresh Prince of Bel-Air after school, and loved every minute of it.

My mama worked hard for us. We may not have had diamonds or ponies, but we were happy and loved.

You can imagine that within me lies this unfeigned yearning to overcome the barriers that have led to an infection of poverty trickling down our family line. I feel it and it is within my reach. I know this now.


So now that I am out of prison, am no longer a practicing private detective, and I am completing my studies, it would be a crime not to share these opportunities with others.

If I do nothing else in life, I will provide you the tools. It's up to you to use them. I believe everyone has a bona fide right to a quality, affordable higher education.

Disclaimer: I want to be sure to give credit where it is due (a little college pun for some razzle-dazzle). I would never have earned half of these credits, or discovered any of the fantastic programs or services, without the dope crew and moderators of Degreeforum.

I’ve spent many late nights up struggling to figure out my life and future until I found Degreeforum. I still spend many nights up too late struggling, but now it’s with essays and projects for class. Now at least I have a solid degree plan. So a tremendous thank you, kind folks at Degreeforum. 

My plan and courses have changed slightly along this journey, due to various reasons such as promotions ending, new opportunities popping up and did I mention prison?

But this is the journey and path I am on currently.

Below are the courses and programs with all the links, costs, and how I am scheduling them to achieve my short-term goal of becoming a software engineer in order to break the cycle of poverty in my bloodline:

Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate Price: Free for first 7 days, then $39 per month. American Council on Education recommends this course for a total of 12 semester hours at the lower division baccalaureate level in computer science.

CSMLearn Price: $39. American Council on Education recommends this course for 3 semester hours at the lower division baccalaureate level in quantitative reasoning.

W3Schools PHP Course and Certificate Price: Course is Free and includes a tutorial, quiz and exercises. Only cost is the PHP exam if you would like the certificate. *Exam is open book and multiple choice/ true or false. Purpose: Some colleges provide credit for industry certifications.

Microsoft Training Days Price: Free. Microsoft is providing virtual training days free to the public in Azure, Business and 365. Once you attend these 1- or 2-day training sessions, they send you a voucher for the associated certification exam for free.

This month I’m scheduled for the Microsoft Azure Virtual Training Day: AI Fundamentals course, Microsoft Power Platform Virtual Training Day: Fundamentals course and have taken the Microsoft Azure Virtual Training Day: Data Fundamentals course, and I am waiting to take the exam.

American Council on Education recommends:

DP-900 Azure Data Fundamentals Exam for 2 semester hours at the lower division baccalaureate level in database fundamentals

AI-900 Azure AI Fundamentals Exam for 1 semester hours at the upper division baccalaureate level in artificial intelligence

PL-900 Power Platform Fundamentals Exam for 2 semester hours at the lower division baccalaureate level in information technology or data science.

Amazon AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Price: Training is Free. Certification Exam is $100 and they give you 50% off of your next exam once you take one. Also, sign up for AWS Educate and you get $35 in AWS credits. Purpose: Some colleges provide credit for industry certifications.

#100Devs Full Stack Web Development Bootcamp Price: Completely FREE!!! By far, this is the best opportunity yet. It’s live on Twitch every Tues/Thurs for 30 weeks. Leon, the trainer, is 100% about teaching the skills necessary to get a job as a Software Engineer.

I just began with the new cohort on January 11th, so we’re going into week 2, and I have learned more, engaged more and been overall more generally interested in his work than any other training or program I’ve ever participated in.

5-stars. Dope teacher. Highly recommended. Seriously. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.

YW Tech Lab 4-month Web Development Program Price: Free. This program is part of a national partnership with, YWCA USA and YWCA Madison. YWCA Evanston/North Shore is partnering locally with Oakton Community College to take Web Development and Advanced Web Development through Oakton.

Bonus*** Oakton just announced first class free for new students for the 2022 Spring Term. From their website: “To make use of this offer, new students at Oakton (defined as someone who has never enrolled in and completed credit coursework at any time in the past at Oakton) must be enrolled by April 14, 2022, at 11:59 pm central and remain in the class for the duration of the semester This offer provides up to three credit hours at the in-district tuition rate for free—a maximum value of $408.75.” Online courses are billed at the in-district tuition rate.

So I am now registered to begin the 2 courses through the YW Tech Program at Oakton on January 18th, as well as the additional course I added through their free course promotion which begins in February. All for free.

Purpose: Experience and credit hours from a regionally accredited institution. *See why that matters in my situation here. For my degrees, 24 semester hours from a regionally accredited institution are required.

DSST Principles of Advanced English Composition Price: $100 for the exam through Pearson Vue, $30 for the delivery of the exam at the local community college.

Purpose: Covering English II requirement in a degree using the quickest method with the least amount of essays required. Initially was going to take it with like the rest of my courses, but you know, prison. My annual membership with Sophia lapsed and the promotion they have presently is too limited for my taste (2 classes max at $79/month), so this works out better. YMMV.

Autism Partnership Foundation Registered Behavioral Technician Certification Price: Free. The Registered Behavior TechnicianTM (RBT®) is a nationally recognized certification in behavior analysis.

Purpose: I have children on the autism spectrum and anything that can educate or enlighten me in my walk alongside them, I’m all for it. Nuff said.

Master in Big Data and Business Intelligence, MBA – Master of Business Administration, Diploma in Expertise in Coaching and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Spanish for Business Diploma through a partnership with the European Business School of Barcelona and Universidad Isabel I.

Price: Originally $8,400 (which is still cheaper than most American Master Degree Programs) but they run specials frequently, therefore I only paid $319 in tuition for the total cost of the program!

Purpose: I desire a master’s degree in a computer discipline, but I couldn’t pass up this opportunity… and here we are.

Saylor Academy Price: $5 per exam. Purpose: Decent selection of Upper division courses which are recommended for credit by the American Council on Education; Software Engineering, Principles of Finance, Project Management and Operations Management.

The courses themselves are free. Once you take the courses, you use the knowledge you’ve gained to pass the exam and earn college credit for it. Price: $200 per month for up to 2 courses. Purpose: Good resource for online study programs that have exams which are recommended by the American Council on Education for college credit at numerous universities.

I have taken and received credit for several already and plan to take Discrete Math, Systems Analysis & Design (Upper Level credit), Database Management (Upper division credit),  and Management Information Systems, which is also recommended for upper division credit both here and through Davar Academy.

The difference is Davar  Academy is recommended for credit by the NCCRS while is recommended for credit by ACE. Davar Academy courses are $70 and up plus $25 proctor fee. 

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