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The $5 College Degree


Jessie White had only one thing standing between her and a coveted degree from Beal College.  But that’s common, right? For many of us, the delays only feed our anticipation for enjoying graduation season with our dearest friends and family.

Most college graduates expect one or two of these inconvenient “pauses” throughout the completion of a degree program. Maybe financial aid runs out, the dean’s office misplaces a particular document or grades are not cutting it. But how many of us wait 75 years before being recognized for our academic accomplishments?

An unpaid, $5 transcript fee caused White – a 99-year-old, lifelong Maine resident – a three-fourths-of-a-century interruption in receiving her stenography and bookkeeping degree. As a polio survivor, White walked to school each day on crutches, and was only able to attend Beal College, located in Bangor, Maine, after receiving $500 from her uncle. Sadly, when the former Miss Jessie Rose Jones finished her studies, she could not afford to pay the required $5 that would have allowed her to receive her diploma during commencement exercises 75 years ago.

Once Beal College President Alan Stehl heard about the situation from one of White’s friends – this issue had been a secret until recently – he went into action. The school reached out to White, paid her fee and held a very special ceremony just for their newest graduate on May 23, 2014.

Even though her degree was delayed, White never stopped being an active member of her community. She applied her education to her work as a bookkeeper, continued her pursuit of learning – she taught herself how to cook and sew – and started a family. However, she considers her degree as one of her greatest accomplishments. As she told the Bangor Daily News, “It just completes my life, I think. It was something I missed, not having a diploma.”


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