FULTON — Using their union memberships to the fullest, three Fulton City School District Cafeteria Unit co-workers are close to earning their associate degrees through the AFSCME Free College Benefit.
The AFSCME Free College Benefit, offered in partnership with several schools, offers active and retiree members and their eligible family members a chance to earn a college degree online from anywhere in the country at no out-of-pocket cost to members.
“It’s all very easy,” Fulton City School District Cafeteria Unit President Jamie Wardhaugh said. “All you have to do is apply and then you go through FAFSA to see if you’re eligible for any financial aid. You’re able to pick the times, classes and everything.”
‘I wanted to better myself’
Wardhaugh said the decision to try the program was a no-brainer. The only thing standing in the way was herself.
“I wanted to better myself,” she said. “I didn’t like school when I was in school, but it worked out well. I’m one class away from my degree and was able to get a promotion because of it.”
And Wardhaugh isn’t the only unit member taking advantage of this amazing member-only benefit. Rachel Muth and Jennifer Fancett are on the verge of earning degrees of their own, and they all plan on pursuing bachelor’s degrees.
“I had been working on my degree for a while and stopped because life happens,” Jennifer Fancett said. “But because of this opportunity, it was a great way to finish out and earn my degree. I was excited when I learned about the program, and my daughter will be using it, too.”
Fancett said her daughter plans to take a gap year after graduation. By using the AFSCME Free College Benefit, she’ll be able to save a lot of money and gain skills to make the transition to the traditional college experience a little easier.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for her to get used to how classes are, the pace of college, and she’ll be able to learn some time management skills,” Fancett said.
Working full time, having a family and going to school at the same time can be demanding, but these soon-to-be graduates say that their education is worth it.
“I’m showing my kids that even if there’s a challenge, you can overcome [it],” Fancett said. “We’re doing things to better our opportunities and I think that’s being a good role model.”
The AFSCME Free College Benefit is just one of the many great member-only benefits you can take advantage of.
“There’s great [CSEA member-only] benefits, period,” Wardhaugh said. “Even if you don’t take advantage of the schooling, there’s discounts on other things you wouldn’t even think about. I know that I got more out of my dues than what I paid.”
— Nicholas Newcomb
Learn more at freecollege.afscme.org