Thursday, January 14, 2010

Online College Planned for Union Workers

The New York Times

The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the main umbrella group for the nation’s labor unions, announced on Thursday that it was joining with the National Labor College and the Princeton Review to create an online college for the federation’s 11.5 million members and their families.
The new college, tentatively named the College for Working Families, will seek to “expand job opportunities for its members by providing education and retraining in a way that’s affordable and accessible,” the founders said.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who chairs the National Labor College Board of Trustees, also announced the selection of The Princeton Review Inc. and its subsidiary, Penn Foster Education Group, as the college’s partners to create the College for Working Families.

"Expanding good jobs is a top priority for the AFL-CIO and to achieve this, workers’ skills and knowledge must match the role of employers in a changing job market. This new online education venture demonstrates our strong commitment to playing a significant role in ensuring that quality education for America’s workers and their families remains affordable and accessible."

The college will be the first and only accredited degree-granting online institution devoted exclusively to educating union members. It plans to begin offering courses this fall, including ones on criminal justice, education, business and allied health sciences.

“We’re working on a survey to send out to the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s members to find out what they’d be interested in,” said William Scheuerman, president of the National Labor College, a 41-year-old college for union members based in Silver Spring, Md.

He said the online college would charge $100 to $150 a credit, competitive with community colleges and far cheaper than most four-year colleges and for-profit schools.

Mr. Scheuerman said the labor college selected the Princeton Review and its Penn Foster subsidiary as partners because of their expertise in distance learning.

In 1890, Penn Foster, based in Scranton, Pa., first provided correspondence courses by mail on safety to coal miners. Penn Foster provides online courses to 220,000 students, and a large part of its operations are unionized.

Michael Perik, president of the Princeton Review, said the College for Working Families would emphasize remedial learning and retention far more than for-profit online colleges do.

“We enter this venture with the strong belief that not enough attention has been paid to student remediation and retention,” Mr. Perik said. “If you’re a 30-year-old worker who is going back to school, you might have to relearn a number of high school-type programs. If you’re going to succeed in an allied health care job, you might need to relearn some of your middle school mathematics to succeed.”

He said the A.F.L.-C.I.O. wanted to focus on student retention. “If have you have a two-year program and can keep students through the first six months, the difference in terms of their likelihood to succeed is exponential,” Mr. Perik said.

Mr. Scheuerman said workers whose labor unions were not in the A.F.L.-C.I.O., like members of the Teamsters and service employees’ unions, could also take courses in the new college. He said they would probably have to pay a premium above what A.F.L.-C.I.O. members pay.

Mr. Scheuerman said the online college would first offer bachelor’s degrees and would ultimately also offer associate’s and master’s degrees.

Established as a training center by the AFL-CIO in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills, the National Labor College is the nation’s only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union members, leaders and staff.

The NLC became a degree-granting college in 1997 and in March 2004 gained accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

With a 47-acre campus located in Silver Spring, Maryland, a new 72,000 square-foot state- of-the-art academic and conference center, and hotel quality residence halls, the College is well equipped to provide the classroom, meeting spaces and superb dining services, which have become our trademark. And the College has been the venue for an increasing number of national and international conferences on organizing, labor rights, civil rights, health care and pension benefits among other areas.

The NLC is also the home of the ”National Workers Memorial” erected on campus to honor the memory of workers killed or fatally injured on the job, or in service to the labor movement.
Since its founding, more than 200,000 union officers and members have taken one or more of our union skills courses and over 1,100 BA degrees in labor studies have been granted.

Recipients include international union presidents and officers, local union officials and stewards and workers from virtually every national and international union.

National Labor College
Academic Services
10000 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20903
Phone: (301) 431-6400
Fax: (301) 628-0160 Toll Free: 1-800-462-4237

1 comment:

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