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Nation’s Largest Labor Union Group Creates Online Degree Program

A new distance-learning program says it is the first accredited, degree-granting, online college open only to union members.

The new program, called the College for Working Families, is a joint venture between the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the National Labor College, and the Penn Foster Education Group (now owned by the Princeton Review).

The National Labor College already offers in-person training and some online classes as the only accredited higher-education institution specifically for unions. The new online program would combine the college’s on-the-ground resources with online tools to offer programs in subjects including health care and business administration.

Leaders of the effort are surveying union members on what courses they would find useful, and some classes should begin in the fall, said William Scheuerman, president of the National Labor College.

The online college would charge about $200 a credit and offer bachelor’s degrees, adding associate and master’s degrees later.

Mr. Scheuerman said the online learning model would be especially helpful to union members, who may not be able to attend classes in person because of their work schedules.

The new college would also provide much-needed skills for union members, he said. “A key change in the labor economy is the shift from muscle power to brain power, so working people need the same advantages as middle class folk,” he said.

The college is still subject to negotiations between the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the National Labor College, and the Princeton Review, which should be completed in the next few months.

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