The Early Educator’s Roadmap to a College Degree
If you are an early educator considering returning to school to work towards getting a college degree, An Early Educator’s Roadmap to A College Degree™ is an on-line tool to help you access important information and support to realize your educational goals. If you are a center director or a career advisor who works with early educators, the Roadmap can also help you to guide your employees and/or advisees towards the resources they will need to further their education.
Early education is moving in the direction of other fields such as nursing, which requires its workforce to have a credential or a degree depending on position and responsibilities. Therefore it can make sense for some early educators to consider returning to school to keep pace with this trend. The Roadmap outlines 8 Steps to take that can help assist early educators on the road to a college degree. Each step contains advice, things to consider, helpful hints, and links to on-line resources, financial supports, and contact information for advisors.
A note to early educators: While the push to obtain a degree can be intimidating, it can also provide an opportunity for you to be recognized as a professional providing a critical service to our children and our communities. Higher education can also open up new opportunities, teaching you new approaches to working with children and earning you credentials that will follow you throughout your career. However, you will have to be sure to assess your resources and select the right educational pathway for you. The Roadmap is not meant to be your only resource; it is meant to connect you with an ongoing support system to help you work towards a degree. Making personal connections with career and academic advisors can make all the difference because they can help you to determine where you are in the process and what you need to do to continue towards a degree.
To use the Roadmap, you will need access to a computer with internet capability so you can click on the links and find the information you need. If you don’t have a computer or internet access at home, your local public library should have computers for public use.
Before beginning your journey, and if you haven’t done so already, register with the MA Department of Early Education and Care’s Professional Qualifications Registry (PQ Registry). You should also review the Massachusetts EEC Career Ladder for Early Education and Out-of-School Time Educators, a valuable resource for understanding how your increased education can move you up in the field.
You can access the PQ Registry here.
Just as you need to register your car and have a driver’s license to begin a road-trip, you will need your PQ Registry number at several steps along An Early Educator’s Roadmap to a College Degree™!
Be sure to update your Educator Profile as you take courses!
A Printable version of the Roadmap:
Before beginning on any journey, it is important to determine where you want to go and how you will get there! At the crossroads of the Roadmap, early educators need to assess their educational goals, their capacity to attain their goals, and where to start.
College for Adults: This website has lots of great information to help you decide where to begin if you are an adult returning to school.
Do you have existing student loans? If so, check out BTWIC’s Student Loan Information Network.
This short publication by Crittenton Women’s Union, Higher Education in MA: Smart Choices, Great Futures, offers advice to adults returning to school for a college degree.
It is also good to have a guide or a travel companion when you are on a long trip! At the Roadmap’s Loading Zone, we hope you will connect with a career advisor, a mentor, or a coach who has made the journey before themselves or has guided others along the same journey, and can help you make the many decisions necessary to successfully completing your degree.
Throughout the state there are 5 regional Educator and Provider Support (EPS) Grantees to assist early educators in their professional development. Early educators can obtain free career and academic counseling from their regional EPS Grantees by calling and setting up an appointment. Each EPS Grantee has their own website, and the link has a list of all five with their contact information. You need to scroll down to get this information for the EPS office in your area.
Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC’s) are another resource located throughout the state that provides free college counseling and assistance with college and financial aid applications. EOC’s provide support for all professions, but may have an early education specialist available.
If you live in Boston, reach out to the Boston Alliance for Early Education, which offers mentors and career counseling for early educators seeking professional development.
Choosing the right institution to meet your needs is similar to approaching a busy intersection with several possible ways to turn. You need to read all the signs and consider what each option has to offer you towards reaching your ultimate decision. For example, starting at a 2-year community college and then transferring to a four year institution may help cut the cost of your degree.
In order to apply for enrollment, you need to research what materials the school you wish to attend requires with their application. Each school has different instructions for how to apply, so you will need to follow directions, much like following a map.
MA Department of Higher Education Public Higher Education Campuses provides links to the websites of all state colleges and universities including the community colleges.
The Center for Educational Documentation provides assistance interpreting the educational backgrounds of people educated in other countries. If you took courses in another country, go to this website for assistance on transferring credits.
The MA Attorney General’s Office has created a Before You Enroll Checklist to help potential students ask the right questions before committing to an institution of higher education.
When you’re driving and you come to a toll booth, you need to know how much you owe and you need to be sure you have enough to pay the toll! Likewise, when you return to school for a college degree, you want to know how much it will cost and what you will have to pay. You should access as much as you can through scholarships and take out as little as possible in loans.
The first step is to complete the FAFSA (The Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
In April, you can access the MA Early Educator’s Scholarship application.
The deadlines for the FAFSA (May 1st) and the MA Early Educator’s Scholarship (June 1st) cannot be overstressed. Complete your applications early!!!
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website
The MA Early Educator’s Scholarship Program provides eligible early educators with financial assistance to enroll in college degree programs. Depending on the type of school, grants can be up to $4,500 per semester at a four year institution.
Research other scholarships that you may be eligible for on the MA Department of Higher Education Office of Student Financial Assistance Financial Aid Programs webpage.
Just as on a road trip, you need to check the gas gauge to be sure you have enough gas in your tank, when you receive your financial aid letter, you need to determine what you will owe and that you will be able to repay it.
In order to determine how much money you will owe and what your future payments will be, visit the Federal Student Aid Website and use their Repayment Plans and Calculators.
For help with loans in default or other financial aid concerns, contact American Student Assistance.
Additional information regarding loan repayment is available on the BTWIC Student Loan Network.
Once you begin classes you will need to adjust to student life and balancing your job with your studies. This can be really challenging!! Remember to reach out for extra help whenever you need it. As when you’re on a road-trip in an unfamiliar place, it’s better to ask for directions then to drive around in circles trying to figure out where to go!
MA Department of Higher Education Public Higher Education Campuses (provides links to the websites of all state colleges and universities including the community colleges). Go to your school website and search for academic advising and/or tutoring services.
Once you complete your degree, it’s really important to pay back your loans in a timely way. Depending on your income and family-size, you may be eligible to reduce your monthly payments through income-based repayment.
If you make regular payments on your loans for ten years and are employed in a non-profit setting, you may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to have the remainder of your loans forgiven!
Update: January 2013
Legal Services Support for Student Loans
If you attended a vocational school and have experienced misleading claims about graduation rates, post-graduation employment rates, post-graduation income, or general problems with the effectiveness or value of the education, or if you have excessive debt from your time at the school and would like to speak to with someone who may be able to help you find a resolution to these problems, contact Toby Merrill at 617-390-2576.
She is an attorney with the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and is looking to help individuals who attended a vocational school and is unsatisfied with the experience.