South Piedmont Associate of Arts in a Year Student Will Graduate Debt-Free, a Year Ahead in Her College Goals

Photo of woman in a field.

South Piedmont Associate of Arts in a Year student Katie Gouvatsos.

A third of the way through South Piedmont Community College’s Associate of Arts in Year program, Katie Gouvatsos is 100 percent sure she made the right decision for her education.

“When I graduate in May, I’ll be a year ahead of my peers. I think it shows that I have a good head on my

shoulders and that I’m determined,” she said.

Gouvatsos, 18, graduated from Indian Land High School in Lancaster, South Carolina, and was offered a sizable scholarship to a private four-year university. However, even with the scholarship, she was still going to be paying $20,000 a year in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree.

Instead of accepting the scholarship, Gouvatsos chose to enroll in South Piedmont’s Associate of Arts in a Year program.

The Associate in a Year program allows students to earn an Associate of Arts degree, which would normally take two years, in just 12 months. For North Carolina residents who qualify, the out-of-pocket cost of the program is capped at $1,500.

While Gouvatsos, who still resides in South Carolina, doesn’t qualify for the cap, South Piedmont Community College was still the clear choice for an affordable college education.

“I work part-time as a receptionist at a yoga studio, and I’m also doing a paid internship with a flower importer. I’m able to pay for my education out of pocket and will graduate without any student loan debt,” she said.

“That was very important to me. I want to be as financially smart as possible.”

Three months into the program, Gouvatsos said the Associate of Arts in a Year is challenging. The curriculum is condensed, and she’s had to learn new time-management skills to stay on top of her assignments.

“But I definitely feel like I’m growing as a student,” she said. “The professors are always there for me when I need help, and they give me suggestions on how to improve my work, which will make me better prepared when I do ultimately transfer to a four-year university.”

The Associate of Arts in a Year classes are offered in person, online, and in a HyFlex format that allows students to choose day-by-day how they attend. Gouvatsos recently had to work late, and while she had planned to attend class in person, she made a last-minute decision to log in to class from her computer.

“I knew I wouldn’t make it in time. That flexibility, being able to go to class in a way that fits my day-to-day schedule, helps a lot,” she said.

Gouvatsos plans to transfer her Associate of Arts degree from South Piedmont to a four-year institution and earn a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy.  

“I had the chance to shadow my mom’s physical therapist. I like the work. It’s very hands-on, and I like the idea of helping people regain the ability to do the things they enjoy,” she said.

Gouvatsos is looking ahead to her graduation and all that will come after she earns her two-year degree in just 12 months.

“I would say to anyone that if you have the will to do it, you will do it,” she said. “You have to manage your time, and you have to stay on top of your work, but this program is such a great opportunity and such a great asset.”

Learn more about South Piedmont’s Associate of Arts in a Year program.

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