Saturday, March 15, 2014

Online Education Empowers Women

Online education at Rio Salado College empowers women
by providing flexible and accessible educational options.  
The landscape has changed significantly for women since the feminist movements of the 1970s. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, women now outpace men in educational attainment. Women are not only welcome, but sought after in skilled career paths like technology and health care, and they experience a much lower wage gap in those fields.

While education is a recognized tool for those seeking equality, access to education can be difficult for women for a variety of reasons.

Women often take on the role of caregiver for children or aging parents, and, according to a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center, women are increasingly taking on the responsibility of sole or primary wage earner. Balancing family and work can make it difficult for women to find time for regularly scheduled classes.

For students like Shayna Andrews, finding a way to make it happen wasn’t optional. When her marriage ended after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, Andrews struggled to find her place in the workforce.

“I often took low paying jobs so that I could work a schedule that allowed me to be home in the evenings and weekends. After a year of working an awful job, I knew I needed to go back to school,” Andrews said, “I just didn’t want to live the rest of my life working like that.”

Andrews turned to the flexible online classes at Rio Salado College to help her balance her work schedule, school and motherhood.

“I am incredibly grateful that higher education is available to me,” Andrews said. “It affords me the ability to be home to do the ‘mom thing’, and that I can work hard to accomplish something that is forever mine.”

For Rio Salado graduate Jana Easley, education was more than a career move, it was a second chance for survival.

"I started my journey at a domestic violence shelter," Easley said. "At age 35, after 8 years in an abusive relationship, I was able to leave with my daughter and my life.

After overcoming addiction and homelessness, Easley enrolled in the high school equivalency program at Rio Salado.

"I had heard through the grapevine that if I put a certain amount of hours in on my HSE from Rio Salado College, they would pay for my first three classes at any Maricopa County Community College.”

"That's what I needed to hear,” Easley said. “I was ‘all in.'"

After earning her HSE diploma, Easley followed the Rio Salado College Bridge Pathways model and immediately started working on her associate degree. She graduated in 2010 and went on to ASU where she earned her bachelor’s degree and was accepted to a master’s program in social work.

This story can also be found in the March 15 edition of the Tempe Republic.