The National Labor College has announced plans to establish a new online service that will bring high-quality degree programs to the AFL-CIO's 11.5 million members and their families, according to an AFL-CIO press release. Tentatively named the College for Working Families, the program will build upon the college's existing distance learning curricula to combine the advantages of online learning with the on-the-ground resources of labor unions throughout the nation to provide programs specifically suited to the special needs and interests of union members and their families.

Richard Trumka, chair of the College Board of Trustees and president of the AFL-CIO, also announced that the College's Board of Trustees has approved the selection of The Princeton Review, Inc. and its subsidiary, Penn Foster Education Group, Inc. leading providers of postsecondary educational services, as its partner to implement the College for Working Families.

"Expanding good jobs is a top priority for the AFL-CIO and to achieve this, workers' skills and knowledge must match the role of employers in a changing job market," Trumka said. "This new online education venture demonstrates our strong commitment to playing a significant role in ensuring that quality education for America's workers and their families remains affordable and accessible. We believe this is one of the best ways to retain and grow good jobs in this country."

According to Trumka, the college programs will enable working adults to build on their prior training and experience, notably in formal and informal learning provided through union- and industry-sponsored training programs, as well as through local institutions, particularly community colleges.

"In the course of their work union members gain a wealth of knowledge," Trumka said. "The College for Working Families will be able to leverage an intimate understanding of the nation's organized workers to provide efficient, effective programs leading to a range of academic degrees that will support the increasing need of working men and women and their families to expand their knowledge in an affordable and accessible manner."

Approval is expected to result in the formation of a joint venture that will bring together the skills and significant financial resources of The Princeton Review and Penn Foster in development and delivery of the college's programs with the expanded academic offerings of the National Labor College to ensure a quality educational experience. The college will retain majority control of the joint venture, and will continue to be solely responsible for the integrity and quality of the programs of the new College for Working Families. The joint venture is subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements among the AFL-CIO, the college and The Princeton Review, which are currently expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2010. Implementation of certain anticipated programs may be subject to regulatory approvals.

National Labor College President William Scheuerman said the college went through a thorough evaluation process before selecting The Princeton Review and Penn Foster. "We underwent an extensive process to identify a partner with deep experience helping working Americans achieve their educational goals," he said. "We were particularly impressed with Penn Foster's demonstrated expertise in providing high-quality student services and support, elements that we consider essential to the success of this ambitious undertaking."

"It is critical that the American workforce can be successfully educated and retrained without driving tuition costs beyond the point of affordability," explained Michael Perik, The Princeton Review's president and CEO. "We are confident that, through this partnership, we can help ensure that the students who enroll in the college will have a successful learning experience and will contribute in important ways to the growth of the American economy."