Local woman fulfilling dream of a college degree

Jennifer Kromrey has worked in an optometrist office, been a childcare provider and a special educational paraprofessional at a local high school, but one goal she has always wanted to achieve was a four-year degree.

Jennifer Kromrey, 54, of Circle Pines is fulfilling her dream of earning a four-year college degree. Since enrolling at Rasmussen College’s Blaine campus in the fall of 2010, she has only missed two days of classes and currently holds a 3.96 grade-point average. Earlier this month, she was named the 2013 Student of the Year by the Minnesota Career College Association. Photo by Eric Hagen

Jennifer Kromrey, 54, of Circle Pines is fulfilling her dream of earning a four-year college degree. Since enrolling at Rasmussen College’s Blaine campus in the fall of 2010, she has only missed two days of classes and currently holds a 3.96 grade-point average. Earlier this month, she was named the 2013 Student of the Year by the Minnesota Career College Association. Photo by Eric Hagen

Since enrolling at Rasmussen College’s Blaine campus in the fall of 2010, Kromrey, a 54-year-old Circle Pines resident, has only missed two days of classes and currently holds a 3.96 grade-point average while continuing to work full time and spend time with her children and grandchildren.

She received an associate’s degree in medical administration from Rasmussen in December 2011 and is now working on a bachelor’s degree in health care management.

Earlier this month received the 2013 Student of the Year Award from the Minnesota Career College Association.

“It’s always been my dream to have my four-year degree,” Kromrey said. “I’ve watched my kids get theirs and so I’ve just always wanted to do that. When the opportunity arose I thought, why not? Lets try to follow that dream.”

Kromrey is a student by night whether in person or online, but by day she is the administrative professional at the Blaine campus. She tracks students’ schedules and transcripts, sends out letters and answers phones with the assistance of other students through the school’s work study program.

“I’m pretty much the central hub of what goes on here,” she said.

Managing all these career and school obligations while continuing to spend time with her children and grandchildren is a balancing act.

All students have other things on their mind beyond coursework and chances are they have talked with Kailyn Helget about these challenges. As Kromrey received the Student of the Year Award from the Minnesota Career College Association, Helget received the Staff Person of the Year Award.

Jennifer Kromrey (middle) received the 2013 Student of the Year Award from the Minnesota Career College Association. Kailyn Helget (second from right) was named the 2013 Staff Person of the Year. Submitted photo

Jennifer Kromrey (middle) received the 2013 Student of the Year Award from the Minnesota Career College Association. Kailyn Helget (second from right) was named the 2013 Staff Person of the Year. Submitted photo

Helget is currently the academic dean at Rasmussen College’s Brooklyn Park/Maple Grove campus, but she previously was the learning center coordinator in Blaine, which is the tutoring center.

During the economic recession, a lot of people enrolling in the college needed to find a new career, Helget said. Although this is still the case for some students, others are coming back to school to continue educating themselves on their current career or because they want to make a career change, she said.

One thing each student is encouraged to do is take a 60-minute boot camp on time management skills, Helget said.

Kromrey becomes a student again

Kromrey enrolled at Rasmussen College in the fall of 2010 after she lost her special education paraprofessional job at Centennial High School due to budget cuts.

Her dream career was to be a nurse, but multiple circumstances made this impossible. The Columbia Heights High School alum applied to get in the nursing program at North Hennepin Community College, but her number was not selected in two lottery drawings.

She enrolled at a vocational technical college through District 916 and after graduating worked for a group of eight different obstetricians in downtown Minneapolis over a three-year period.

While working in the laboratory and assisting the physicians with patients in the obstetrician office, she got married and had her first child — Sarah. She decided to stay at home and open a licensed childcare provider business. She did this for 18 years and had two more children — Megan and Derek.

After getting out of the daycare business, Kromrey worked at Centennial High School for eight years, although she had a one-year break when she tried another job that did not work out. Unfortunately for her, this break in working at the school meant she lost her seniority when budget cut decisions were made.

When deciding what kind of college to attend, she knew early on she wanted a smaller college and not a large state university. What she loves about Rasmussen College is that there are a number of older students, as well as students just out of high school.

“I’m a non-traditional student in every way,” Kromrey said. “I didn’t want to go somewhere and be a stand-out. I wanted to go somewhere where I really thought I fit in and this is definitely the place.

“It’s kind of nice when you get in a classroom and have discussions it’s great to have all those different points of view from the different generations. It makes class discussions very interesting.”

Although she would have loved to be a nurse, Kromrey felt she is at an age where starting that career would be impossible. She thought an associate’s degree in medical administration made sense because it would involve office assistant work that she has done before.

She received this degree in December 2011 and around that time Blaine campus director Patty Sagert encouraged her to apply for the administrative professional position, Kromrey said.

Kromrey is undecided whether she will seek a job in the health care management field after receiving her bachelor’s degree or whether she will keep working at Rasmussen.

“I don’t really know what the future will bring and where I will end up,” Kromrey said. “I still need that four-year degree even if I decide to stay at Rasmussen that four-year degree will open doors for me.”

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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