12.5 million union members can earn bachelor’s at Central State

Published: Thursday, November 21, 2019 @ 3:00 AM

University officials sign the agreement on Thursday, November 14, to allow AFL-CIO members to earn online bachelor’s degrees from Central State University. Pictured: (L-R) Central State University Trustee Yonathan Kebede, UnionPlus President Mitch Stevens, Vice President of Eastern Gateway Community College Online and Student Affairs, Christina Wanat, Student Resource Center President Michael Perik, CSU Trustee Chairman Mark Hatcher and CSU President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond.
Contributed Robert Vickers
University officials sign the agreement on Thursday, November 14, to allow AFL-CIO members to earn online bachelor’s degrees from Central State University. Pictured: (L-R) Central State University Trustee Yonathan Kebede, UnionPlus President Mitch Stevens, Vice President of Eastern Gateway Community College Online and Student Affairs, Christina Wanat, Student Resource Center President Michael Perik, CSU Trustee Chairman Mark Hatcher and CSU President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond.(Contributed Robert Vickers)

Members of the nation’s largest federation of labor unions can for the first time earn an online bachelor’s degree from Central State University.

CSU President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond and President of Union Privilege Mitch Stevens announced last week that 12.5 million AFL-CIO affiliated union members across the nation are eligible to pursue a four year degree through the university’s online programs.

Union Privilege is an AFL-CIO nonprofit affiliate that works to provide consumer benefit programs exclusively to union members and their families, according to its website.

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Before the new agreement, members were able to pursue free online associate’s degrees through a collaboration with Eastern Gateway Community College. Students can now continue their education from CSU, paying tuition.

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Eligible students can either continue to the new online bachelor’s program from their associate’s education, or begin as a freshman in the four year program.

“This transformational partnership will make Central State’s excellence more easily recognized from coast-to-coast while supplying the quality of specialized CSU programs to members of America’s largest labor federation,” said Jackson-Hammond.

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Students planning to take advantage of the new programming are currently in the process of applying and getting enrolled in their prospective programs. The first semester for AFL-CIO affiliated union students will be at the start of 2020, said Robert Vickers, director of CSU public relations.

“The university is very optimistic but we won’t know really until we go through a few semester cycles,” Vickers said. “We’ll get a sense after this first semester how many are going to probably more than likely continue on from the associate’s program. I think in time, once word of mouth spreads among members of the AFL-CIO, that we’re very hopeful that a large number of members eager to participate in the program.”

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Bachelor’s degrees in the fields of business and education are likely to be the most popular degrees pursued through the new program, Vickers said.

“We are excited to partner with an institution as storied as CSU to provide working families across America with an affordable and convenient solution to completing a bachelor’s degree program,” Stevens said.