CSEA Member Earns Both Associate and Bachelor's Degrees, Thanks to Union Plus

California School Employees Association (CSEA) member Jacob Rodriguez leapt at the chance to join his school district’s information technology department when a position opened up. The only catch was that he was a substitute custodian and didn’t have a college degree yet. “I promised them I’d go back to school to get more qualified,” Rodriguez said. Thanks to the Union Plus Free College Program, Rodriguez was able to complete his associate degree free of charge, graduating in December 2020.

The Union Plus Free College Program partners with AFSCME and Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) to offer online courses and degree programs with no out-of-pocket cost to active or retired union members and their eligible family members, including spouses and children.

“I really liked my classes,” Rodriguez said. When he finished his degree, Rodriguez kept going. He’s now enrolled in the Union Plus Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program, where he’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management with a cybersecurity focus. Once again, he’ll be getting his degree without paying anything out of pocket.

Through an academic partnership with Central State University, the Union Plus Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program offers union members and their families education grants that cover all tuition, fees and e-books. To be eligible, students must have already earned an associate degree or have 60 or more transferable credits.

“You have to be focused, you have to put in the time,” Rodriguez said of how he fits in school on top of everything else going on in his life. On the flip side, he said, “When I get my bachelor’s, I’ll have so much free time I won’t know what to do with it.” And, he’ll have a promotion.

The Free College Program is now enrolling for classes starting on March 29. Learn more about available degree programs at UnionPlusFreeCollege.org. The Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program is now enrolling for classes starting March 15. Visit BachelorsDegree.UnionPlus.org. Unemployed, furloughed, and laid-off union members and their extended families are eligible to enroll.