All in the Family: An Entire Household Enrolls at JSU


Amanda, Jonathan, Tanner and Taylor Kughn are jointly pursuing their bachelor's degrees on campus.

In the Kughn family, there’s no whining about the stress and strain of being a college student. Or, if they do complain about deadlines, late night study sessions, or homework overload, it’s likely met with head nods and shoulder shrugs that say, “Yeah. I get it.” Because they do – all of them.

Each member of the Kughn family – mother, Amanda; father, Jonathan; son, Tanner; and daughter, Taylor – are currently enrolled at JSU.

“We all have something we can relate on and experience together, but separately,” said 20-year-old Tanner, a sophomore majoring in communications. “It is nice, though, because our parents kind of understand and get a taste of how stressful college is these days. With having to balance school, work, family and free time, it can be a lot.”

Taylor also sees the benefit of having her parents at JSU.

“We are all in different seasons of life,” she said, “but we all have this one shared experience that most families do not have. I do not personally feel like there is a downside to our situation.”

Taylor, 22, will graduate from JSU in May with a degree in criminal justice. “While I had always planned on attending Auburn University, I realized that I wanted to major in criminal justice, which is not offered at Auburn. After researching, I felt that the best criminal justice department was, in fact, at JSU.

Tanner, who his mother calls an “artsy music lover,” dreams of playing drums in a rock band. Yet even rock stars need a strong education. “I was actually not sure if I was going to attend college or not, only because I didn’t have anything specific I wanted to go for,” he said. He then discovered JSU has several degree options that can be useful to students who want to do something out of the ordinary.

“I took a film class, out of curiosity, and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Tanner said. “It was so cool having a teacher who had been to Hollywood and acted. It gives people like me hope and inspires us to push ourselves there, because we now know it is very possible.”

Amanda, JSU’s lead admissions processor, always thought she’d go back to school once the kids were out of the house. Being hired at JSU simply sped up the process. She enrolled in the integrated studies program, she said, “because it gives you the ability to take courses that you feel would be the most beneficial to you.”

“I was nervous going back into the classroom because so many things have changed in higher education over the last 20 years,” Amanda said. “I was really concerned about the added stress and how I could balance life with my family and my job. My advisor really helped me with my concerns, from helping me choose my classes to the occasional ‘you got this’ email. I have found that all of my classes have adult students in them, so I am not the only older person. I was worried I would look like Billy Madison.”

Taking a cue from his wife, Jonathan enrolled at JSU last fall, where he is working towards a degree in applied engineering/manufacturing management. He hopes it will help advance his career at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, where he is the delivery coordinator in the supply chain department.

“After the kids graduated high school, I decided to utilize my company’s tuition reimbursement program to pursue my bachelor’s degree," said Jonathan, who received an associate's degree in applied sciences from Jefferson State Community College in 2000. "I know this dynamic of everyone attending the same college at the same time is not the norm, but I did not realize how unusual it was. In my first semester at JSU, in one of my classes, we had to list “two truths and a lie” and I decided to list as one of my truths  that me, my wife and both my children are all currently attending JSU. Even though the other two responses were pretty hard to believe, my professor picked this as my lie.”

It’s been an adjustment for Jonathan, who’s taking his classes online. “Currently, my position is very demanding, but with the online options, this gives me the flexibility to work at my own pace and plan around my work schedule. So far, this has been a great option for pursuing my education while meeting my responsibilities at work

Amanda feels like it has been beneficial for her and her husband to be in school at the same time. “After Tanner graduated, we took one year to enjoy the empty nest, and then I decided we would go back to school,” she said. “Since we are going through this process together, I feel that we are more understanding of the time the other person needs to spend on schoolwork. We usually spend Saturday and Sunday afternoon at our separate workstations focusing on our assignments. We are even taking a class together this semester, so we watch the lectures together.”

While Taylor has yet to bump into her parents on campus – unless she happens to swing by her mom’s office – she’s happy to share the college experience with them.

“When I found out we would all be going to school together, I had an overwhelming sense of pride in my parents,” she said. “They had me at a young age, and put a lot on hold – including graduating college – to take care of my brother and me. I had heard them talk about hopes of going back to school most of my life, so when that idea started to a become reality, I felt nothing but excitement for them.”

That sense of pride goes both ways.

“My wife and I are extremely blessed to have the opportunity for our children to be close in age, to be in school at the same time, and to share college experiences that they will surely remember for the rest of their lives,” Jonathan said. “Our family loves to have fun and not take life too seriously, so we hope this experience will just provide additional stories and memories we can have for the rest of our lives.”