Arlen Britton proves age is just a number

Tabi Jozwick

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Age is nothing but a number for Arlen Britton, who will be graduating from Western Illinois University this month at the age of 62.

Britton, who is a Building Services worker at Western, will be receiving a bachelor’s degree in General Studies. General Studies is a flexible degree for students who can take classes online.

Britton planned on attending Western after graduating high school but said, “Things happen,” and was unable to enroll until almost 40 years after high school.

“Over the years, I always wanted to go ahead and try to think about getting my degree,” Britton said. “A few years ago, I took a few junior college courses up around Chicago when I lived up there.”

Britton gained employment with Building Services and took advantage of the perks that civil services received.

“When I started out here I figured (that) civil services paid for your tuition,” Britton said. “(So) all I have to do is pay for my books, I thought, ‘That’s (a) pretty good deal.’”

Technology and online courses made it possible for Britton to work and earn a degree at the  same time.

“I started taking online classes back in 2007, thinking maybe (it would take) five years to do it,” Britton said. “I skipped a semester or two, or maybe only took one class instead of two, that’s what’s taking so long.”

Britton estimated that it‘s taken him around eight years to complete the classwork required for the General Studies degree and is excited that the end is near.

“The finish line is finally in sight,” Britton said. Britton said that the best thing about the General Studies program was that the program has no major, but students could have up to two minors if they wish.

Britton said that this program helped because it’s essentially an “elective course” and that you could “take whatever interests you.”

Several courses that Britton took for the General Studies degree included psychology, sociology, economics, social work, real estate, astronomy and tourism.

“That’s the great thing about this program,” Britton said. “It’s the fact that you don’t focus on one major, but get all of (the) prerequisites out like all students must. But then after that, you could go in any direction you want to go. I kind of had to go to what was being taught at the time online to fit my schedule.”

Despite his age, Britton said that he has hopes of utilizing his degree after graduation.

In the past, Britton covered Macomb and Western sports on the radio as a sports broadcaster with WJEQ and as a sportswriter for both the Macomb Journal and Macomb Eagle.

 Britton encouraged people to take college classes in the different areas that they are interested in, not necessary having to earn a degree, especially if they are Western employees so they can take advantage of the civil services programs.

“If you’re really committed to whatever you want to (do), go and finish a degree that you started some time ago,” Britton said. “Regardless of if you’re married, got a family, got another job (or) you don’t live in Macomb, the great thing about this program as a nontraditional (student) is you could do it online at your (own) pace. There’s no time limit on when you finish your degree.”

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