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By Adrian Ridner                              Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                            Facebook    Twitter         Blog              
August 22, 2017                                        EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon


Photo of Working Scholars coaches
                                               Photo courtesy of Working Scholars
These Working Scholars and success coaches took time out of their busy schedules to pose for a memorable group photo.

 
Silicon Valley is booming. We’re the home of sought-after tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google, and tech jobs are red hot. But for every tech worker in Silicon Valley, there are five service workers who aren’t able to take part in the region’s economic prosperity. The cost of living is at an all-time high and many locals and service workers are simply unable to compete – forcing many to move out of the area. One reason - the lack of a bachelor’s degree.

In East Palo Alto, 83 percent of adults over the age of 25 do not have a bachelor’s degree. A college degree is the key to upward mobility, but the rising cost of tuition in addition to work and family obligations often prevent resi- dents from pursuing that degree, essentially locking them out of high paying tech jobs in the area. It also leads to widespread income inequality and a lack of diversity in our communities.

My team and I at Study.com started the Working Scholars program as a way to address this inequality and provide Silicon Valley residents with an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree with zero out-ofpocket costs. Fresh off the heels of the success of similar programs in Mountain View and Gilroy, we’re excited to launch the Working Scholars program in East Palo Alto on Aug. 24.

The East Palo Alto Working Scholars program addresses the three main barriers to a college degree: cost, convenience and confidence. The program’s online format offers flexible learning for working adults and with the help of Study.com, Thomas Edison State University (TESU) and the City of East Palo Alto, East Palo Alto resident can now earn their degree at no cost.
The easy-to-digest video lessons also remove much of the intimidation factor of completing college-level courses, while the community of Working Scholars and the program’s success coaches provide motivation and support.

The program is completely community funded and addresses the college affordability problem at the root by lowering the total cost of the degree to under $8,500 through technology, low-cost transferable credit and discounted tuition fees. That discounted amount is then covered by a combination of corporate and private sponsorships.

Designed to fit within the busy lives of working adults, Working Scholars’ completely online and flexible five-minute video lessons allow students to learn on-the-go and at their own pace. Success coaches at Study.com help assign courses and keep students motivated. Anyone living or working in East Palo Alto is eligible to participate, and without any books or other materials required, there is no added cost for the student.

Once participants have earned credit for Study.com courses, those credits are transferred to TESU, where the scholars take their final courses and earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, students also learn basic life and career skills like financial literacy, personal branding and leadership.
When my co-founder and I started Study.com, we were frustrated with the expense of textbooks and the ever-increasing cost of college tuition. Study.com has addressed that by using technology to make education affordable, effective and engaging. We help K-12, college students and professionals thrive academically, reduce the cost of college and close professional skills gaps.

Working Scholars takes that mission a step further and gives us the chance give back to our community. We believe it’s a blueprint for the nation on how technology makes a truly debt-free college solution possible with the help of corporations, private companies and private institutions.

Close to 300 students from Mountain View and Gilroy are already actively working toward their degree and we’re excited to extend this opportunity to East Palo Alto as well as to other Bay Area cities in the coming months. For more information, attend our Info Night on Aug. 24 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the East Palo Alto City Hall.

Adrian Ridner, the author of the above article, is the CEO and co-founder of Study.com. Working Scholars is a program of Study.com. For more information about Working Scholars or Study.com, visit www.workingscholars.org or email workingscholars@study.com