Libraries are a Solo Mom’s best friend
We’d like to get our high school diplomas, sure, but between having to work, wipe little butts, occasionally sleep, take monthly showers, and—OK—watch an episode or two of Scandal . . . who can get to an in-person program?
Lucky for us, our local library may offer an option. The library? Yes! You think libraries are only for lovely-but-musty books and VHS versions of When Harry Met Sally.
Well, they’re not. It’s 2016, and libraries are reimagining themselves. No longer just receptacles for hard-copy books and orphaned cassette tapes, libraries of the new millennium are hip and becoming more vibrant and flexible. For example, the Los Angeles Public Library’s mission statement states that it “provides free and easy access to information, ideas, books, and technology that enrich, educate, and empower every individual in our city’s diverse communities.”
In alignment with that mission statement, in 2014, the Los Angeles Public Library—in partnership with Gale/Cengage Learning (a private educational company)—began its pilot program to enable library patrons to earn an accredited high school diploma and credentialed career certificate through the Career Online High School at no cost to the student.
“There aren’t a lot of options out there for adults who don’t have time to attend an in-person program because of work and family. Ours is the only accredited online program available,” says Kristina Massari, senior manager of Public & Media Relations at Cengage Learning.
Other libraries that have followed suit include the Sacramento Public Library in California; the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio; Chattanooga Public Library in Tennessee; Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook, Illinois; the San Diego Public Library; County of Los Angeles Public Library; New Orleans Public Library; and the New Jersey State Library.
The program can take you anywhere between four to 18 months to complete (with a typical timeline of four to eight months). Credits you earned in high school are eligible for transfer as well. However, elective credits will not transfer; you will need to use these to gain a professional certification.
What do these programs offer?
- An accredited high school diploma
- A career certificate in the area of choice
- Online instruction, available 24/7
- A one-on-one academic coach to offer guidance, evaluation, and connection to resources
- A career portfolio that provides a tool for finding jobs
- Access to the Internet at the library and oftentimes a laptop to borrow during the time of your studies
How do I qualify for these programs?
- You must be over 19 years of age.
- You must be a resident of the area the library services and have a library account in good standing.
What are the application steps?
Prospective students are asked to:
- Complete an online self-assessment
- Pass a two-week prerequisite course
- Apply for a scholarship for enrollment in the full program, which may involve an admission essay, in-person interview, etc.
Completing the prerequisites qualifies you for but does not guarantee a scholarship; however, libraries are committed to meeting the needs of its communities for this program and thus have been successful.
What career certificates are offered?
- Child Care and Education (CDA)
- Certified Protection Officer (security officer)
- Office Management
- Certified Transportation Services (truck/commercial driver)
- Homeland Security
- General Career Preparation
- Retail Customer Service Skills
- Food and Customer Service Skills
Who is paying for my degree?
The library pays for enrollments through its own funds or through grants.
Whom do I contact if I’m interested?
- Your local library
- Gale/Cengage Learning’s Career Online High School
What is the program’s retention rate?
The program retains approximately 72% of students.
What if your library doesn’t offer this program yet?
“The program is seeing great success and spreading rapidly,” Massari says. Some states, such as California, have a statewide deal with Gale/Cengage Learning. You can champion for the program to be offered at your library by bringing in this article and making library staff aware of the need for it in your community.
In the meantime, some workforce development boards offer this opportunity as well (e.g., Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Walmart, and others), so you might inquire about it at your place of employment. There is also an option to pay for it yourself, although only about 4% of students do so. The cost is $1,295 if you pay in full, or you can set up a payment plan of $77 per month; for 18 months, that’s $1,386.
For Solo Moms, the flexibility of an online program is perfect. Needless to say, the program’s affordability (by that I mean the fact that it is offered for free through libraries) is also a plus. Moreover, the extra academic support and career development are hard to beat. What’s that? You say you want an online prom, too? That’s a great idea! Find me a date, and I’ll be there in my Pretty in Pink–inspired dress.
Mika Yamamoto, ESME's Guide for Public Assistance, has successfully nurtured two children as a Solo Mom and now hopes to achieve the same results as a plant nanny.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.