“Collaboration is the key to success, and equity must be a chief consideration in this process.” – Ana Mari Cauce, president, University of Washington
Education has the power to promote positive change, advance social equity and improve people’s lives. At times like these, during a global pandemic, social unrest and political discord, education can help bring together people with diverse backgrounds and empower them to solve problems.
But with unemployment at record levels and the shift to remote work and learning, many people are uncertain about the future.
Taking action can help.
While the call to action for learners may be to explore available options for continuing education, as providers of continuing learning in higher ed, this is a moment for us to answer another call, the call to drive equity in the non-credit portfolio space with scholarship and financial aid programs.
One way we can guarantee access to opportunity is by helping learners of all ages and income levels access education and unleash their potential – especially adult learners looking to upskill in their current role or learn new skills to make a career change.
Scholarship programs put professional certificate programs in reach of underserved segments of our community.
In 2017, we launched the UW Certificate Scholarship, the first of its kind at the University of Washington. That year we granted ten need-based scholarships for select certificate programs. We’ve expanded the program each year since. In the 2020/21 school year, we granted 24 scholarships and, so far the 2021/22 school year, we’ve granted 35 scholarships covering most of the program costs.
In addition to helping improve the career prospects of the 62 students we have served these past four years, we are providing employers with exceptionally skilled workers and contributed to building a more knowledgeable global community.
Local businesses and organizations have recognized this. Gifts from local employers AT&T, BECU, ESA, Herrera Inc., Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists, Perkins Coie, Rotary Club of the University District, Seattle Finance Collective and Windermere Foundation have helped us meet the need while giving these donors a chance to make a positive impact in the local community.
Continual learning has never been more critical to people’s professional success. Tapping your civic and business communities for financial support helps ensure that students who cannot afford the cost of education can have access to lifechanging opportunities through rigorous professional certificates, enriching short programs and advanced degrees.
This is the time to seek out available financial resources in business and industry. Let’s seize this moment to provide a hand up for people needing hope and a dual boost – the financial one that lets them take advantage of non-credit programs, and the enriching programs that give people the confidence, skills and competitive edge so needed in today’s job market.
Rovy Branon is UPCEA Immediate Past Board President and University of Washington Continuum College Vice Provost.