Considering Going Back to School? Ask Yourself These Questions:

This is a guest post contributed by blogger Lisa Nichols. You can reach her at reese.am.jones@gmail.com.

The thought of going back to college as an adult, whether it’s to complete an unfinished degree or pursue a new one altogether, can be very daunting. It’s a huge commitment and one that may make some feel unready. To help with your decision, here are five questions you should be asking yourself:

What’s holding me back?

Determine your motivations for going back to school. Whether it’s a personal promise to yourself or because you want to switch careers, knowing your reason will not only help you face your worries but it will also keep you motivated to get your college degree.

Also, know that there are also other people in the same boat as you. You may be scared that you’d be the oldest person in your class, or that you’d stand out amongst your fellow students, but the National Center for Education Statistics reported that almost 40% of those attending college this school year are students 25 years and over. Experts also estimate that this percentage will continue to increase over the next decade. So, if you do decide to go back to college, you’ll be joining at least 7 million other adults.

Replacing your worries and fears with all the benefits and advantages of getting your degree can help with your commitment to starting and finishing school.

How do I fit in college classes to my existing schedule?

It can be tough to fit college classes into your already busy schedule, especially if you’re working full-time or raising kids. Programs that offer night classes are a great option for those who only have the nights off to study. However, the schedules of modern-day adults often make it near impossible to pursue an on-campus degree program. Thankfully, technology has provided more options for adult learners, allowing them to earn their college degrees from the comfort of their own homes. Some online school applications can be a breeze, too. Learners can enjoy flexible start dates to help them ease into the process of going back to school. Student support systems have also been developed in recent years, which provide students of online institutions the social support they need to excel in the virtual classroom. All of this makes fitting education into your schedule easier and smoother. Most community colleges also offer part-time education programs, helping working students find a way to pursue further education without compromising their current commitments.

How do I pay for school?

Being an adult does not mean that you won’t be qualified for financial aid. There are a handful of available grants and scholarships available for adults returning to college. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to unlocking any federal financial aid. And even if you don’t qualify for grants, your FAFSA is your access to federal student loans. You can also search online for possible grants and scholarships.

If you’re a working professional, your current employer can be a possible source for financial assistance. Ask and check if your company can offer some kind of tuition reimbursement.

How do I prepare myself for college?

Once you’ve sorted out the logistics of how you can go back to school, it’s a matter of preparing yourself physically and mentally for college. Before attending classes, whether offline or online, you may want to brush up on your academic skills by going online and reading up on topics related to the course/program you’ve decided to pursue. Navigating your way through college as an adult will become easier if you align your personal, social and work life with the changes that college could bring. A great way to do this is by enlisting the support of your family and friends. Inform them of your plans of going back to college and ask them to help out with your current obligations to make it easier for you to ease your way back into studying.

How do I balance everything when I start studying again?

As an adult learner, you would need to find balance in all your roles, from school to family to work. The key to doing this is effective time management by prioritizing your responsibilities and planning ahead. Blog contributor Piper McIntosh discussed how it’s also important to take time for yourself, since it’s easy to lose yourself with all the added responsibilities of going back to college. Getting your degree should not be a reason to not have any quality time for yourself and your loved ones.

 

National Skills Coalition selects Ohio Workforce Coalition to Join State Policy Advocacy Network

The National Skills Coalition has selected the Ohio Workforce Coalition to join SkillSPAN, a nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions focused on advancing state policies that expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local businesses’ capacity. The Ohio Workforce Coalition joins the original 10 founding states and will receive a $25,000 grant to advance work throughout 2020.

The Ohio Workforce Coalition brings three major goals to SkillSPAN, including building the skills of adult workers, working to meet the skill needs of employers, and strengthening the entire workforce system. Through this partnership, the Coalition will be better suited to accomplish its goals and build educational and career pathways for all Ohioans.

As Director, Rebecca Kusner will lead this initiative and guide the Coalition’s members to advocate, educate, and innovate as we assure the availability of a job-ready workforce, increase effectiveness of programs serving Ohio’s employers, and improve Ohio’s workforce development programs. “Since 2007, the Ohio Workforce Coalition has been the leading voice for adult workforce issues in Ohio. I’m thrilled that we are able to join this network and take our work to the next level,” said Kusner. “With The National Skills Coalition’s support, we will build our platform, grow stakeholder engagement, and consider the long-term future of our Coalition.”

The Literacy Cooperative has been selected to serve as the interim fiscal agent for the Coalition. Laureen Atkins, vice president of Strategic Initiatives, is on the Leadership Committee of the Ohio Workforce Coalition and assists with the policy priorities, strategy, and activities. Other Leadership Committee members can be found on our website at www.ohioworkforcecoalition.org.

The Literacy Cooperative’s 2Gen Initiative: Tri-C partner spotlight

At The Literacy Cooperative’s 2Gen Summit in May 2019, we highlighted best practices in the two-generation approach to learning.

2Gen approaches build family wellbeing by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and adults in their lives together. Learn more about our 2Gen Initiative.

During the Summit, The Literacy Cooperative presented a 2Gen Call to Action that focuses on four key imperatives: involving parents and family members as equals in the planning process, expanding interagency knowledge among service partners, implementing referral strategies and shared databases across all organizations, and using these methods to incubate a 2Gen programming pilot to track results, scalability and sustainability.

One of the programs that exemplifies the goals of a 2Gen Approach is Cuyahoga Community College’s Saturday Family Academy (SFA), a free, non-credit course designed to promote education, empowerment and success to the entire family.

“The vision was to create an innovative model to educate and inspire multiple generations of a family, and take the whole family to the next level,” said Kenneth Hale, founder and former director of Saturday Family Academy. “We want to change the trajectory for some of these folks.”

Every Saturday morning families attend age-specific classes, which are different each year. After the individual sessions, all students gather to share what they learned and eat a meal together. 

“It’s a learning community at Tri-C that doesn’t cost any money for the families, and the whole family can benefit,” Hale said. “It’s really been awesome.”

One of those families is the Thomas Family. Parents Duane and Theresa, with children Tamara, Sherelle, and Joseph, attended SFA during the Fall 2016 and the Spring 2017 semesters. Originally, they went to support dad Duane to get more comfortable with the college environment before going back to school – but soon found it beneficial for all. 

Theresa and Duane took wellness and financial literacy classes together; Tamara prepared for college with ACT courses – something that her CMSD school didn’t offer; Sherelle and Joseph played chess and solved math problems to build critical reasoning skills. 

Duane and Theresa said during their financial literacy class, they learned how to keep track of their money much more and expanded their knowledge on banking. Fun games weren’t just for the children, either – the financial instructor had his session set up like a game of Jeopardy.

Tamara not only prepped for the ACT but also gained skills both in and outside of the classroom that prepared her for her future, such as a connection to an internship and professional development made through the Saturday Family Academy.

She’s now a sophomore at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Her dad is also a sophomore, soon to earn his Associates degree from Cleveland State University. He wants to be a counselor, helping other students with their education.

“Being able to walk around that campus, I was able to see other people like me,” Duane said. “I was like, wow – it really doesn’t matter your age. Anyone can finish school.”

Sherelle is attending Tri-C as an 11th grader this year as part of her high school curriculum. Because of this experience with her family, she said she feels totally comfortable on campus.

The Thomas family said being able to share in their education as a family brought them closer together.

“You’re not just bossing around and prioritizing education for your children, but you’re showing them that you’re dedicated to education as well,” Theresa said. “It really put an emphasis on that.”

Myra Stone is one of the teachers at the academy. She taught at Rhodes High School for years. Now retired, she comes back every year to help kids.

“When you’re teaching high school, you see a lot of kids – intelligent kids – who just have some problems they’re working through,” she said. 

But SFA is different than school.

“I do hip-hop with the kids, drama, and poetry,” Myra said. “Going into this I was aiming for laughter. A lot of these kids come to school with baggage, and that makes it hard to learn. But these small groups are a unique opportunity to engage more with the kids.”

With further partnerships with institutions and programs such as SFA, Greater Cleveland can continue to move toward operating under a 2Gen model to benefit families more effectively.

The fourth year of Saturday Family Academy begun September 21st at Tri-C’s Metro Campus and continues the next five consecutive Saturdays.

Register with this form, and email to Mikki.McDonough@tri-c.edu or bring your completed form to SFA with you.

A Three-Year Partnership Proves Successful

After three years of growth within The Literacy Cooperative, Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland is ready to reach out on its own. 

September marks the end of a 3-year Bruening Foundation grant that funded a full-time Literacy Cooperative staff member and other expenses related to supporting Reach Out and Read. Reach Out and Read will continue serving children and families in Greater Cleveland through a partnership with Cleveland Public Library.

For the last three years, Lynn Foran, a Literacy Cooperative employee, served as the coordinator of Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland (RORGC). Before her leadership, the 20+ year old organization was completely volunteer-run, but the Bruening Foundation saw an opportunity for growth facilitated by The Literacy Cooperative.

“We knew we wanted to host RORGC with an organization connected to the community, especially as it pertains to early literacy – and that was The Literacy Cooperative,” said Jeanine Gergel of Foundation Management Services, which services The Bruening Foundation.

Gergel said the nearly fifteen-year history of The Literacy Cooperative being Greater Cleveland’s convening agent for partners in literacy made the organization an obvious choice.

The grant is a part of Bruening’s Strong Start initiative, designed to “reduce poverty and expand economic prosperity in Cuyahoga County by investing in efforts that help disadvantaged families ensuring that every child gets a strong start in life.”

It aligns with the mission of Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland, which is to provide a foundation for success through pediatric care, using books and reading aloud to impact the health and development of children and families.

Foran works across the region’s health systems to help pediatricians, family medicine doctors, and nurse practitioners incorporate early literacy guidance into regular checkups and to distribute important information about early literacy and brain development. At each regular visit through the five-year-old checkup, the family has a conversation with their child’s medical provider about how and why it is important to read aloud with their young child, and the child goes home with a new book.

Research finds that children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of others on their vocabulary tests because they are regularly read aloud to. Early foundational language skills like this help children begin strong on a path of success.

One of The Literacy Cooperative’s focus areas is to help support families during their child’s first five years of life and identifying the appropriate message and appropriate messenger is critical. Pediatricians are a trusted source of information for families.

“When Jeanine Gergel and I first talked about this funding it was really a win-win situation,” said Bob Paponetti, President & CEO of The Literacy Cooperative. “We were able to help fortify an already impressive organization and test whether we could leverage the relationship pediatricians have with families to connect them to other important resources in the community.”

The results proved that The Literacy Cooperative and Reach Out and Read could do just that.

Over the past three years, Foran has grown Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland from 23 health system sites to 33 and has facilitated the distribution of 86,000 new books and doctor-parent conversations.

“Having that pediatrician aspect is so important, and The Literacy Cooperative knows that,” Paponetti said. “We need to reach parents and let them know how important reading is to childhood development. We don’t have a relationship with them – but the doctors do. And most parents trust their doctor.”

The organizations worked together with Pre4CLE, Starting Point, and Invest in Children to form the Preschool Prescription initiative. The goal is to increase awareness of and enrollment at quality preschools through pediatrician recommendations using “The Night Before Preschool” book given at the doctor’s office. Since its start, more families are calling Starting Point to learn about quality preschool and enrollment has risen.

Dr. Robert Needlman founded ROR, a national organization, in 1989. He said the partnership with The Literacy Cooperative strengthened Reach Out and Read to be recognized as a critical part of the literacy landscape. 

In 2017, soon after Foran joined The Literacy Cooperative, it became the local affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. In this program an enrolled child receives a brand new, age-appropriate book in the mail monthly until their fifth birthday. Foran led the design, implementation, and rollout of the program in the Cleveland area during her time at The Literacy Cooperative.

“It was a wonderful collaboration,” Needlman said. “Lynn was able to utilize the Reach Out and Read provider network to connect the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program and integrated the new Preschool Prescription initiative into doctor’s offices to benefit Pre4Cle and Starting Point’s work. We wouldn’t have been able to do it on our own.”

Every month, Dr. Needlman, Foran and Paponetti met to discuss the partnership and future goals. Paponetti said those regular meetings were critical to the success of the partnership – and in the end, launched a partnership that truly supports both organizations’ mission.

In August, Foran took on new responsibilities as Executive Director of ROR Greater Cleveland. Although she is leaving The Literacy Cooperative as a staff member, she will continue as a strong partner. She said she’s excited to watch the organization expand from the connections she’s made in the community, as well as continue collaboration with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and The Literacy Cooperative.

“I’m excited to help more parents understand the importance of reading to a child,” Foran said. “A child’s education begins at birth when the brain is rapidly developing. Snuggling up with an infant, toddler or preschooler to share a book is a joyful way to feed a young brain. Start early, too – don’t wait until they can bring you a book.”

More information about The Literacy Cooperative can be found at www.literacycooperative.org and Reach Out and Read information can be found at http://www.reachoutandreadgc.org/

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO TEACH FINANCIAL LITERACY TO YOUR CHILDREN BEFORE COLLEGE

One of the most valuable lessons a child or teenager can receive is instruction on how to handle their finances – not just for today, but for decades to come. The key to making smart financial decisions stems from knowledge and experience, and many young adults lack both.

Educating our youth in financial literacy is a key challenge for parents, teachers, and the education system in general. Despite its importance in a teen’s future, financial literacy doesn’t get the attention it deserves. As teens prepare for college, many of them haven’t learned the necessary financial basics. Why is that?

There Is a Vacuum in Financial Literacy Education

While awareness has increased recently, financial literacy is still an underserved education topic in middle schools, high schools, and even at home.

To put it in perspective, the United States ranked 7 out of 15 countries who participated in an international financial literacy test for high school students. The Treasury Department claimed less than a third of adults were ever offered a financial literacy course through high school and college. A 2012-13 financial literacy exam revealed that young adults scored an average 58% with only about a quarter of participants scoring over a 70%.

Furthermore, some studies show that parents neglect to talk about money matters such as paying bills, saving money, budgeting, and more with their kids. One report showed that 69% of parents were reluctant to discuss money with their children. The same report indicated that only 23% of kids reported talking to their parents about money often.

Why Is It Such a Big Deal?

Experience is the best teacher, right? It normally would be if the consequences weren’t so severe and far-reaching. When a teenager turns 18, the world opens to them, and so does the potential for disastrous financial decisions.

New environments, such as a college dorm or their first apartment, can lead to poor choices when they aren’t educated about money matters. They may apply for credit cards and use them irresponsibly. Not to mention, many young adults take out student loans without much thought to paying them later. Many neglect to build a savings account.

According to the Financial Educators Council, 39% of adults don’t have any non-retirement savings. 56% of adults don’t have a budget, and tellingly, 76% of college students wanted more help preparing for their financial futures. At the same time,

Some of those early money mistakes could be avoided if teens knew more about financial matters when they began their adult life. A few bad mistakes could lead to bad credit or a huge amount of debt that could take them years to clean up.

Get It Right Early On

It pays to get it right the first time. The earlier referenced Treasure Department report also claimed that adults who were offered financial education also had greater net worth, higher rates of saving, and larger regular retirement account contributions.

Financial literacy education doesn’t need to be complicated, and covering the basics is a good place to start. Here are just a few general habits to discuss.

Proper Credit Building Habits

Teens should learn the basics of credit cards, credit score, and credit building. They should understand how a credit card works and why you need to spend with it. They should know how to pay off a credit card balance and what happens when missing a payment. And they need to know how interest rates increase their expenses. All these lessons can be applied to other forms of debt.

Furthermore, understanding how debt levels, regular payments, and missed payments impact their credit score. On top of that, explain what a credit score means and how it impacts decisions for the future.

Basic Budgeting and Savings Skills

Knowing what a credit score is important, but it’s equally important to build finance management skills in general. These skills include learning how to cut expenses, saving money to pay bills on time, and how to manage multiple obligations. It can give your child the motivation to stay within their budget because they’ll know that overspending can lead them into serious debt over time.

Learning how to save money goes together with budgeting. This starts with opening a bank account and devoting a percentage of a paycheck or allowance to it. Learning about the importance of saving money is also a stepping block to understanding retirement accounts, emergency savings, and more.

Building a Future of Knowledge

Unlike some subjects in college and high school, financial literacy education instills lifelong skills to be used throughout your career. A foundation of financial knowledge will help young adults avoid making costly, derailing mistakes and instead make constructive, proactive decisions for the future. A little education now could also be a springboard for further curiosity. It could inspire your child to keep self-educating themselves about finances in the years to come.


Andrew is a Content Associate for LendEDU – a website that helps consumers, college graduates, high school students, small business owners, and more with their finances.