The Camden County Library System is offering adults in its 27 member communities the chance to earn an accredited high school diploma online through a partnership with the New Jersey State Library and Cengage Learning.
The Library is offering 35 scholarships that will allow qualified candidates free access to NJ’s Career Online High School, which is made possible by a grant awarded to the New Jersey State Library from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Camden County Library is one of six statewide, and the only one in the South Jersey region, selected by the State Library to offer the Career Online High School. Enrolled participants will have the opportunity earn a diploma complemented by a credentialed career certificate in one of eight possible fields.
Career Online High School is for residents who dropped out of high school and have not returned nor taken the GED exam. Participants must be at least 19 years of age and have completed one year of high school. Candidates must be able devote at least eight hours a week from between six to 18 months to complete the program.
Scholarship recipients will be able to work toward their high school diploma completely online, giving them the convenience of an anytime-anywhere online learning platform, and the ability to select a career pathway and gain career skills in high-growth, high-demand job disciplines.
“When the New Jersey State Library announced it was accepting applications for its Literacy Innovations Grant, right away we saw the benefits and the opportunity to provide for a critical need felt in some of our member communities,” explains Camden County Library System Director Linda Devlin.
In its grant application, the library cited the fact that only 64.2 percent of Camden city residents over the age of 25 have a high school diploma, and this lack of education profoundly limits their chances to secure good jobs that pay living wages and salaries. Camden city joined the County library system in 2011, and since then the graduation rate in the city has declined from 56 percent to less 50 percent in 2012.
“We believe this program will have a critical impact on the quality of life and economic growth of NJ communities by enabling individuals to further their education and compete for jobs with more earning potential,” said New Jersey State Librarian Mary Chute.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting reported that 1.3 million teens drop out of high school annually, costing the nation more than $100 billion in lost wages and taxes, plus the increased social costs of crime and healthcare. High school graduates and dropouts, aged 16 to 19, struggle the most during economic downturns. The U.S. Labor Department estimates that one in four is jobless.
“This initiative demonstrates the Freeholder Board’s and the Library’s commitment to educational opportunities in Camden County,” says Freeholder Ian Leonard, liaison to Camden County Library System. “It gives students a unique opportunity to get back on an educational track by earning a diploma.”
“Without a high school diploma and a college education it can be more difficult to find gainful employment in today’s economy,” Leonard says. “That is why we encourage anyone who has not completed high school to contact the Camden County Library System to learn more about this program.”
Devlin adds, “We’re excited to offer Career Online High School which could be a real life-changer for some residents in the communities we serve. It’s a major undertaking for the library and its partners, but we’re ready to meet this critical need as we expand how libraries serve their communities,”.
The library will be recruiting and selecting qualified candidates on a rolling admission basis until March 2015 or until all of the 35 seats have been filled.