by Laura Bayne

In 37 days I will walk across the stage in Stegeman and graduate with a Master of Public Administration without having to take out student loans or having spent (much) of my own money. Did you know the University System of Georgia allows employees to take (most) classes offered for free?

Many employees are surprised to find out they can get degree(s) for free while working at the university. This is an incredible perk of working for the University of Georgia and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Without diving too much into the policies and procedures, I’m going to share with you an overview of how you can do it and why you should consider taking those classes you’ve always wanted to or getting that degree you’ve been putting off.


If you’re like me, you swore you would never get a graduate degree (Isn’t that a lot of writing? The irony is not lost on me as I write this blog). Maybe you’re still unsure what you want to do with your life (I’ve heard this is a millennial thing)? Taking classes may not reveal your calling, but I do think it will equip you for whatever opportunity comes next. In the case of an MPA, it will give you context and understanding of your current organization.

Let’s be real

How do you even find the time? I understand. I was hired to work at the university when I was 30 weeks pregnant so the last thing on my mind was studying for the GRE and applying to graduate school six months later. Of course, the allure of a free education (no tuition OR fees) was too great. I found replacing a few weeknight Shonda Rhimes shows with studying and spending weekend afternoon nap times with my textbooks or papers allowed me to stay on top of my assignments. I took two classes a semester and two during the summers which, in my program, set me on a schedule to graduate with a master’s degree in 2.5 years.

Where to start

If you’re not sure where to start, I would recommend considering applying to the graduate school as a non-degree student and taking a class or two from there. Up to nine hours can transfer to a program and count towards a graduate degree. You don’t need to take the GRE to take classes as a non-degree graduate student. I did this my first semester because I was scared – what if I couldn’t juggle it all? Once I got that first class in the MPA under my belt (it still was the toughest to this day – Dr. O’Toole I am looking at you) I applied as a full-fledged MPA student to the graduate school. I would also recommend discussing with your supervisor your wishes to pursue more education – here at DAR we value innovation, and I think the exposure to new ideas in the classroom is key.

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