Kennesaw State University’s College of Continuing and Professional Education held its annual summer graduation ceremony Thursday night.
Almost 125 students received their certificates in front of roughly 250 family members and friends.
Shari Haarala, 50, of Marietta is one of the students who earned her certificate this spring after taking classes in medical billing and coding.
“I have been a registered nurse for the last 27 years but wanted to go in a different direction while still being able to use my nursing knowledge,” she said. “I hated the thought of my previous experiences going to waste and I thought this would build on that.”
She chose KSU after hearing about its reputable continuing education programs.
“I haven’t been to school since I got out of nursing school so I didn’t really know if I could do it,” she said. “Not only did I get my certification, but I learned that I could still think, study and do well on exams.”
The four-month program, which she chose to take in person as opposed to online, was difficult at times but helped her prepare for a billing and coding position in a physician’s office.
“That’s where I’d like to start and eventually go into hospital coding or working with insurance companies,” she said. “But, in the meantime, I’m still trying to get my foot inside the door.”
Dean Barbara S. Calhoun, who has led the school for the last 19 years, said it offers a traditional graduation ceremony for students like Haarala so that they can be formally recognized for their accomplishments.
“It’s very important that we celebrate the success of our students,” she said.
Medical billing and coding is one of 42 programs offered in the college.
“What we do is work with people who are changing careers where their job has been downsized, or people who are coming into the career fields for the first time,” she said.
“We make a difference in people’s lives and give them options. I’m totally committed to it and that’s exactly why every day is more exciting than the next. Education opens the door to opportunities.”
KSU offers programs so students can complete a certification in a shorter period of time compared to a two-or four-year college.
For example, a paralegal certification takes 18 months to complete, a culinary certification nine months, and a majority of their health care certifications take about six weeks.
Calhoun said their enrollment grows by around 7 percent every year and at this time, they have approximately 18,000 students enrolled in classes.
“In this economy, people who have been downsized and don’t have time to go back and get a four-year degree, and are typically married with families, need a program with a short turnaround,” she said.
They offer classes primarily at night so students can work during the day while still being able to earn a certification.
“Our online learning classes are growing by leaps and bounds too,” Calhoun said. “They are just so convenient to our students.”
The affordability of the programs are comparable to other continuing education schools.
For a detailed list of programs and costs, call (770) 423-6765 or visit the college online at kennesaw.edu/coned.