Rob Alway is pictured on his farm, wearing a John Deere hat

Starts and stops on path to degree: Successful business owner spurred to reenroll after receiving letter

When Rob Alway received his Grand Valley diploma in the mail, it meant more to him than something to display in an office. Alway's diploma represented a completion of a 30-year-journey.

Now the owner/editor-in-chief of the Mason County Press and Oceana County Press, Alway was like countless other people who dropped out of college in favor of taking a full-time job. Having two young daughters at home spurred him to resume a path to a bachelor's degree in communications, he said.

"I run a successful business and have had a career in journalism, but I wanted to show our children that you should finish what you start," he said. "That's a lesson my dad taught to me."

The lifelong Mason County resident earned an associate degree from West Shore Community College in 1991 and transferred to Grand Valley. Soon after, Alway's part-time job at the Ludington Daily News expanded to full-time. And like many others, life happened to him. Alway got married and by 2010 was teaching photography courses at WSCC as an adjunct instructor when his wife, Becky, urged him to reenroll at Grand Valley.

"I did. I was taking some courses at West Shore and some at GVSU, then in 2013 my oldest daughter was born," he said. 

View more photos of Alway, his family and their family farm on this Exposure site .

Rob and Becky Alway hug their daughters Avoca, left, and Sloane, right.
Rob and Becky Alway hug their daughters Avoca, left, and Sloane on their family farm.
Rob Alway and his wife, Becky, sit in Red Rooster Coffee
Rob Alway and his wife, Becky, sit in Red Rooster Coffee where Alway sometimes does his work for Mason County Press/Oceana County Press.

Alway halted his progress again. Until a letter from Grand Valley arrived in his mail last year.

"I received a letter that essentially said, 'You are close to finishing your degree, here are some resources to get you there,'" he said.

Alway was considered a "stop-out student" by Grand Valley, a student who was enrolled but didn't complete a degree and still lives in Michigan. Simone Jonaitis, executive director of the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies, said the Laker Complete initiative is among the department's most successful campaigns: targeted letters inviting people back to GVSU to finish their degrees.

"We know the stories of these folks," Jonaitis said. "They have families, got a job or moved away for a while. We're connecting with them and providing resources to help get them back in the door."

hands holding a diploma
Rob Alway holds his diploma from GVSU
football stadium, man with computer up in stands recording high school game
Rob Alway, owner and editor-in-chief of Mason County Press/Oceana County Press, records a livestream of the high school football game between Mason County Central and Ravenna in late September.

Alway got in the door by connecting with advisor Kate VanDerKolk in January, then securing financial aid to enroll in the two classes he had left.

"My classes were remote and I did my work in the evenings," he said. "Most of the students were much younger than I was but I brought a different perspective to my classes, which I think the faculty enjoyed."

Work continues to be busy for Alway, who also serves as a Scottville city commissioner. Yet he said knowing a diploma rests in his home office is satisfying.

"It was kind of cool to get it in the mail, it's in a special box," he said. "It is nice to finally have that after 28 years, a completion of something. College may not be for everyone, but I still feel that was something I started and I am glad to have completed it." 

Information about Grand Valley's accelerated online degree program, popular with returning students, is online at


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