A portion of the CollegePlus team - taken in November of 2011
Brad Voeller was a young man who had discovered a problem.
A problem with higher education as a whole.
As a young man of 20 years old, Brad had taken a look at his life and his burden for the people in Asia and realized he needed something. He needed his Bachelor’s degree to really impact students and families in education-oriented Asia.
But he didn’t want to spend 4 years of his life earning that degree. He already had life experience on the mission field and wanted to get back there as soon as possible.
As he researched his different options, he discovered most of the colleges and universities weren’t very concerned with serving the unique needs of the students. They didn’t seem to care that Brad already had tons of life and ministry experience and knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
All he needed was his degree to credential him to be able to do that.
Everywhere he looked, there just wasn’t an opportunity for a customized experience within higher education.
After a lot of research with his entrepreneurial spirit, Brad was able to earn his fully accredited Bachelor’s degree in six short months, utilizing credit-by-exam and by documenting the life experience he had and receiving credit for it.
He had earned his degree and was ready to go live out his calling serving students in Asia.
But before he left, some mentors in his life encouraged Brad to write a book. They thought he should document the way he had earned his degree, so all the research he did could benefit students in similar situations.
Brad called the book, “Accelerated Distance Learning.”
And a movement was born.
Students and families all over the United States began clamoring for Brad’s book. He wasn’t the only one who had a problem with the way higher education was. So many families had been looking at the cost (both financially and spiritually) associated with sending their children off to college and didn’t like what they saw.
Many of these families had decided it would be better for their children to not earn their college degree than to go into debt and potentially lose their faith over the course of earning their college degree. And not many colleges focused on equipping students for their life calling either.
Brad’s book changed all that. Now there was a way for these students to earn their college degree without subjecting them to debt and a humanistic worldview in the name of education.
And it was exciting.
Brad had started working on his degree so he could go back to Asia and help students there. He didn’t realize that God had prepared a whole group of students he wanted Brad to serve. And they weren’t only in Asia.
They were all over the world.
Brad decided to stay in Illinois for a bit instead of immediately returning to Asia. He saw the need and wanted to help the students and families who had read his book.
Soon, Brad also developed the Dynamic Memory course for students to receive training in memory skills from a Christian perspective. Along with four interns who were trading work for help earning their degree, he called this startup business Global Learning Strategies (GLS), a non-profit organization committed to developing young leaders through education.
GLS started out by selling Brad’s Accelerated Distance Learning book, as well as other resources to help students pursue their degrees.
With generous people around them donating office space, housing for interns, time and even a car, the company that would eventually birth CollegePlus slowly grew.
After travelling over the United States for homeschool conventions and speaking engagements, Brad realized that the pioneering and freedom loving Texans were embracing this “new way to earn a degree.” After a lot of prayer, he decided to move the company down from Illinois to Texas and plant some roots.
After a few months of working from the house Brad had rented, he found another house in Canyon Lake, Texas. Downstairs was the Global Learning Strategies office. Upstairs was where the interns lived.
Ryan Joins the Team
Shortly before Brad moved to Texas, a friend of his, Ryan Yamane, was struggling with the same problem Brad had – he had ministry and business experience, but hadn’t been to college. He was ready to get married and start a family, but wanted to earn his degree first.
After some help from Brad, Ryan decided to move back home to Washington to focus on earning his degree.
Brad had enjoyed serving students here in America. But his heart was still for the people in Asia. At the beginning of 2003, the opportunity came up for him to help begin the homeschool movement in Korea and he felt this is what he had been waiting for.
But he didn’t want to leave behind the students he was currently serving. He knew firsthand that there was a huge need among high school and college students here in America. So in February 2003, Brad “twisted Ryan’s arm” to move from his family’s farm in Washington down to Texas to be an intern and finish his degree - with the hope that he would become the CEO when he finished.
Global Learning Strategies continued to grow as they started offering more resources for students. In addition to the book and memory skills, they added “degree consultations” - a one-time phone call with a student to help them map out all the exams, classes and portfolios they would need to complete to graduate.
Offering those degree consultations was a huge step. Brad had started out wanting to create something that would allow students to customize their education; something that would help them earn their degree the way they wanted to. And a personalized degree plan was going to help them do just that.
Brad and Ryan had been going to homeschool conventions with their resources and services, talking to homeschool parents about college. As they were traveling the United States each year, they noticed a trend.
They would come to an event and talk about this new way to earn a degree. Everyone would get very excited and some might even have a degree consultation. When Brad or Ryan came back the next year, everyone was still excited and still talking about it, but hadn’t done anything with the information. They seemed to just stick the information on the shelf and get distracted with life.
Woody Joins the Team
At about that time, Woody Robertson was brought on first as an intern to finish his degree and then as Director of GLS.
Ryan had finished his degree and become CEO. Still a part of the “founding team,” but now less involved, Brad had moved to Asia to pursue his calling working with the homeschooling community there.
Now the two at the helm, Ryan and Woody began brainstorming solutions for the problem of no one acting on the information they had so excitedly received.
Through those discussions, the idea of coaching students through Accelerated Distance Learning was born. Now they would not only provide students with a personalized degree consultation, but they they could also provide one-on-one customized mentoring to these students.
CollegePlus is Born
Within the first year (2005), they had 50 students who had signed up for the new program.
They called this new program CollegePlus.
The CollegePlus program had been created, but a lot of growing still needed to happen.
Shortly after, the office moved to Ryan’s garage in Spring Branch, Texas and so began “The Garage Years.”
The Garage Years
During the Garage Years, CollegePlus really began to take off. Woody, Ryan and a handful of degree-pursuing interns worked in Ryan’s garage, no matter what the circumstances. And the circumstances could definitely be less than ideal.
If Texas summers weren’t bad enough, here these guys were in an unfinished garage with a little window air conditioning unit. If a call came in, the air had to be turned off because it was too loud to hear the client on the other line. And since the bathroom was on the opposite side of the house, certain times for bathroom breaks had to be established so everyone wasn’t always barging in on Ryan’s wife and kids unannounced.
This made for an interesting predicament when someone was on the phone during the only bathroom break for two hours – an interesting predicament that occasionally ended with the customer being put on hold while the staff member made a mad dash to the restroom.
By the time they got up to 8 people, they had more than outgrown the garage and moved to a house converted to an office down the road in Spring Branch, TX in 2007.
It seemed that things had settled down a little bit. But that wouldn’t be keeping with CollegePlus tradition...
Not too long after they moved to the new office, Ryan decided he needed to move home to his extended family in Washington state. After a lot of thinking and praying by all three members of the founding team, Ryan, Woody and Brad decided it would be best for Ryan to keep working for CollegePlus and take the Operations team with him to Washington. In the fall of 2009, the second branch of CollegePlus offices was opened in Moses Lake, Washington.
CollegePlus has continued to grow. After 7 years of living in Korea, Brad (and his wife), moved back to Texas to play a more daily role at CollegePlus.
After three years of being in two different offices, Brad, Ryan and Woody decided it was time to be all back together under one roof. In December 2012, Ryan and the team up in Washington moved back down to San Antonio.
Our team currently consists of 46 staff members in the San Antonio office and 73 in various locations all over the world.
And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what titles these men hold or even where everyone is located (although it is awesome to have the leadership team under one roof). The mission has stayed the same since Brad wrote “Accelerated Distance Learning” all those years ago.
The mission to help students with “life prep” - offering them the tools they need for a well-lived life, not just a degreeLEARN HOW THIS WORKS