A tear-jerker in my inbox recently (shared with permission from the student):
I am not sure if you remember me but I wanted to thank you! Hopefully, I am down to my last class and will graduate this December. When I started on this college journey (for the 2nd time in 2016- at the age of 33) via online classes, to say I was terrified would be an understatement! Growing up, I did not know that I could go to college since my family could not financially swing it. After I graduated from high school and became a wife, I was told that there was assistance out there that could help. After a few years, two kids, and a divorce, I saw my chances of graduating becoming slim and eventually dropped out. With encouragement from my work family and a strong desire to show my kids that they can reach for the stars, I came back. Anyway, that first semester back, you encouraged me, showed me kindness, and gave me hope that I could pursue a degree. I am still worried that something will happen to impede me graduating but I am getting excited!!! I wanted you to know how much your words truly helped me.
I’ve written before about how online education is a feminist endeavor for me, but if you don’t believe me, I hope this email–which was the second such one I received last week from a woman with young children (to give you a sense of how common such gratitude is)–convinces you of the value of these programs. They aren’t for every student, and they aren’t a good fit for every institution, but if you are resisting them because you think you won’t get good quality students, that you’ll cheapen the value of your traditional degree program, or that you’ll be offering inferior learning experiences, talk to those of us who love this work and find it to be meaningful and effective.
Above, single mothers with college degrees are much less likely than single mothers without degrees to live in poverty. No one, regardless of educational level, should live in poverty. But if we can’t solve that right now, we can provide more women with children opportunities to learn and earn a degree.
My philosophy of education is that it changes family trees and communities–not just individuals, but all those they connect to. If you think that should be one of the goals of public education, I hope you’ll learn more about online programs.