A new pilot program offered by the New Jersey State Library allows residents to earn an accredited high school diploma and career certificate online — for free.
That’s good news for the nearly one in eight adults — 25 or older — in the Garden State who do not have a high school diploma, The Associated Press reports. The pilot program launched this month at six New Jersey system libraries, thanks to grants from the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Clinton Global Initiative.
“This is changing lives,” Peggy Cadigan, the deputy state librarian who's overseeing the program, told the AP. “That’s what libraries are for.”
New Jersey joins a growing number of public library systems that offer online high school diploma programs to patrons. The Sacramento Library was one of the first systems in California to offer such a program, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, in Ohio, is providing a similar program to qualified adults.
In New Jersey, the online high school completion and career certification program “pairs each student with an online academic coach, who provides the student with an individual career path, offers ongoing guidance, evaluates performance and connects the student with the resources needed to master the courses,” according to the library’s website.
Students can earn a certificate in one of eight areas, including homeland security, office management, and child care and education,. All course work is Web-based.
In many ways, libraries are embracing technology to provide an array of digital services to residents.
At the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., staff train between 500 and 700 people each month, but librarygoers want more. As they complete intermediate classes to boost their digital skills, patrons are asking for advanced classes to continue learning, Nick Kerelchuk, manager of the library’s Digital Commons, told StateTech.
As a next step, the library is exploring how it could implement a badging system to validate that an individual has certain skills, such as 3D printing. Ideally, the library would partner with a large institution or company to create this system. Kerelchuk believes this resource could be available to D.C. residents and other library patrons in the next two years or so.
“This could be something much larger than what people have traditionally thought of as a library service, and I think we’re doing a great job of changing those hearts and minds of [people who say], ‘I didn’t know I could do that at the library’ or ‘I didn’t know I would be going to the library this often’ or ‘I didn’t know I would be getting educated at the library [and] certified at the library,’” Kerelchuk said.