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5 Questions for Tony Siress, President and CEO of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation, on the Mountain View Working Scholars Program

mvwstonysiresslogoPart of our mission at UpSkill America is to highlight local and regional upskilling efforts. So when we were contacted about a new upskilling initiative in Mountain View, California, to provide free college degrees to people who live and work in Mountain View, we wanted to learn more. That’s when we reached out to Tony Siress, President and CEO of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation to find out about the program.

 

What is the Mountain View Working Scholars program and how does it work?

Mountain View Working Scholars is a special opportunity for working adults to earn a Bachelor’s degree for virtually no cost. A college degree is increasingly becoming the key to economic advancement, but it remains out of reach for thousands of people in Mountain View due to high tuition costs and the challenges of juggling work and family responsibilities. The Mountain View Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with Study.com and Thomas Edison State University to offer a comprehensive bachelor’s degree program that removes financial barriers and provides a flexible online learning format ideal for busy working adults. We’ve just launched the program, but so far we’ve received over 80 applications from working adults in the community. Several of these people have already begun completing coursework towards their degree. We can’t wait to see the impact of this program once word really gets out.

 

Who are the partners involved and what role does the Chamber play?

This program represents an innovate partnership between a private tech company, a public university and a community based non-profit. Thomas Edison State University was selected for this program because of their flexible online programs and their unique focus on serving the needs of working adults. They utilize the Study.com College Accelerator platform, which gives students the ability to complete most of their coursework from their smartphone. Thomas Edison also offers one of the most flexible credit transfer policies in the country, allowing students to take advantage of any previously earned college credit and expedite their degree. Study.com is providing their online courses as well as degree planning and coaching. The Chamber is helping raise awareness and is playing the role of scholarship custodian though our 501c3 Mountain View Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation.

 

Why did the Chamber decide to participate?

The Chamber is at its core, a business advocacy organization. But we see the value of education as a key component of a healthy and successful local economy. Most people associate Mountain View with Silicon Valley and the tech industry, but the reality is that for every tech worker, there are 5 non-tech workers in service related industries. Approximately 45 percent of adults over the age of 25 living in Mountain View do not have a bachelor’s degree. With the high costs of rents, home prices and other living expenses in the bay area, a college degree can be the key to unlocking greater earning potential. Mountain View Working Scholars addresses the important issues of workforce development and college affordability, and is very aligned with both the economic efforts of the Chamber and the efforts of our educational foundation. It was a natural fit.

 

How is the Mountain View Working Scholars initiative funded and how much does it cost participants?

Study.com has donated free College Accelerator licenses to all participants, so students can take the vast majority of their college courses at no cost whatsoever. This would normally cost $199.99/month. The final costs to graduate from Thomas Edison range from $3,311 and $4,337 depending on the amount of previously earned college credits. Our goal is to raise enough scholarship funding to cover these final costs for all participants.

 

What are the program guidelines such as who is eligible for the program, where students can attend and what majors they can pick?

Anyone who lives or works in Mountain View, California is eligible to participate. The entire program is completed online. Students can go at their own pace — without the burden of homework assignments or the need for textbooks. Those who successfully complete the program will earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Thomas Edison State University, an accredited 4-year public university. To learn more about the program go to www.study.com/mv.