Two NSU students find path to graduation through Compete LA program


NATCHITOCHES – For Amiee McFarland and Katrina Denman, earning a college degree is something they had pretty much given up on. Both had started college but were unable to finish a degree. The Compete LA initiative got them back on track and they will receive degrees from Northwestern State University this week.

The program is available at all University of Louisiana System schools, which includes Northwestern State and eight other institutions.

Compete LA is designed to re-engage the 653,000 Louisiana adults with some college credit but no degree. To qualify for Compete LA and a discounted tuition rate, students must be Louisiana residents, have some college credit but no degree and have not been in school for at least two years.

Each Compete LA student is matched with a free coach to assist in identifying the best path to degree completion, re-enrollment and academic success.

Denman returned to her hometown of Baton Rouge to look after her parents at the start of the pandemic then things began to fall into place.

“I remember seeing an article that talked about college being accessible to those on the front lines,” said Denman, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in general studies. “As I read the article, I said God do it for me. A few weeks later I come across the Compete LA program. I immediately sign up and the process was smooth and fast.

Denman only needed summer and fall classes to graduate.

“For many years I considered returning to school, but I wasn’t sure it was for me,” said Denman. “The same fears and insecurities that I had while attending college the first time would come rushing back at the thought of returning. After a conversation with two trusted friends, I had one foot in the door to return.”

McFarland had been out of college since 2012. Her children inspired her to go back to school. She only needed one semester to complete an associate degree in general studies. McFarland plans to continue her education and seek a bachelor’s degree.

“I wanted to show them that it doesn’t matter how old you are you can always accomplish your dreams,” said McFarland, who is from Sugartown. “It will mean the end of a very long road.  I feel very proud and relieved to have finally received it.”

According to McFarland, her accomplishment has influenced some in her family. She said her sister has started doing research on returning to school.

To Denman, earning a degree is about more than getting a hard-earned diploma.

“It means that I have overcome a huge fear, and that I have completed something that could fast track where God is taking me,” said Denman. I think It will motivate others to finish what they started and be encouraging to others not to quit.”

Students interested in finishing their degree can apply at or through the program’s mobile app found in the App Store and on Google Play.