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An Unlikely Path: Members of Congress Without Bachelor's Degrees—PICTURES

September 23, 2011

Among the 535 members of the 112th Congress, 28 took an unlikely route to the Capitol—they never earned bachelor's degrees. From running family businesses to jumping from community colleges to Ivy League graduate schools, this gallery takes a look at some of the most interesting of those who didn't finish college.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. attended Baylor University, where he was an active member of the Young Conservatives of Texas, but failed to get an undergraduate degree. That didn't stop him from becoming an opthalmologist, though -- a high score on a medical entrance exam got him admittance to Duke University's School of Medicine, where he earned an M.D. in 1988.--PHOTO: ED REINKE/AP(PHOTO: ED REINKE/AP)

Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., attended the University of Michigan, where he played Division I football and entered the 1996 NFL draft, but didn't graduate. The move paid off -- in 2000, Runyan became the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history with a six-year, $30 million contract.--PHOTO: MEL EVANS/AP(PHOTO: MEL EVANS/AP)

As a stay-at-home mom, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., earned her associate's degree in English literature at Canada College. Eshoo, the only member of Congress of Assryian descent, would later launch her political career by getting active in local civics groups.--PHOTO: CHARLES DHARAPAK/AP(PHOTO: CHARLES DHARAPAK/AP)


Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., dropped out of high school as a teenager in Philadelphia, but later got an equivalent diploma and went on to earn a master's degree in government administration at the University of Pennsylvania.--PHOTO: MATT ROURKE/AP(PHOTO: MATT ROURKE/AP)

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, skipped college after his father, former Alaska state Sen. Nick Begich, was killed in a plane crash. When he graduated high school in 1980, the Alaskan economy had hit a low point, so he went to work for his single mother's real estate business rather than continue with school. --PHOTO: AL GRILLO/AP(PHOTO: AL GRILLO/AP)

Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., briefly attended Mount San Antonio College, but then dropped out to become a home builder in his early 20s. He parlayed that into a career developing planned communities, and is now one of the wealthiest members of the House.--PHOTO: DENNIS COOK/AP(PHOTO: DENNIS COOK/AP)


After graduating from Hazleton High School in Pennsylvania, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., left Bloomsburg University to pursue a dream of becoming a professional baseball player. He returned to Hazleton after an unsuccessful tryout with the Cincinnati Reds, then opened his own business. He also was elected mayor of Hazleton.--PHOTO: RALPH WILSON/AP(PHOTO: RALPH WILSON/AP)

Falling six credit hours shy of graduation from Oberlin College, Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., returned to her home state of New York, where she helped train child care workers, worked as a state legislative aide, and served as a business director for the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.--PHOTO: LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE/AP(PHOTO: LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE/AP)

Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., enrolled in Grand Rapids Bible and Music School after graduating from high school, with plans to join the Baptist ministry. But in 1976, when he was 20 years old, his father asked him to drop out to take over the family business, a roofing company. He would become president of the company five years later.--PHOTO: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP(PHOTO: J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP)


Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., attended college at South Dakota State University, Northern State University, and Mount Marty College, but ultimately came home to help run the family farm after her father died in a fall into a grain bin while trying to unclog a feeder line.--PHOTO: ALEX BRANDON/AP(PHOTO: ALEX BRANDON/AP)

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