RITís PREP Program Offers Hope and Education to Displaced Workers

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Discounted tuition and career counseling help motivated students

Displaced, dislocated, disoriented, distressed: All apply to workers in Rochester and across the nation who have found themselves without a job in the last few months.

New York Department of Labor data show that the stateís and nationís unemployment rate in December 2001 was 5.8 percent, up from 4.5 in New York state and 4.0 in the nation a year before.

For people who take being laid off as an opportunity to re-prioritize their life and pursue a new career, Rochester Institute of Technology offers a break where itís needed most.

The Professional Re-employment Education Program (PREP) offers a 60 percent tuition discount to qualified Rochester-area employees whoíve lost their jobs as a result of economic or business conditions.

Students in PREP find that the tuition break isnít always the biggest benefit, though. The program also offers career counseling, academic advising and general old-fashioned handholding and reassurance.

In fall 2000, Karen Goldenbaum had decisions to make. At age 54, she had been laid off from her job as a mechanical engineer in steel manufacturing for the transportation industry in Utica, N.Y. She moved to Rochester, near her daughter and son-in-law, and set her sights on RITóa school sheíd always wanted to attend.

But where to begin? She wound up talking to Gene Clark in the Office of Part-time and Graduate Enrollment who took her by the hand and guided her through the process.

"If it werenít for the staff and faculty going out of their way for me, I wouldnít be at RIT right now," she says. "Iím thrilled to be at RIT. Itís a school Iíve always admired."

Since she has a background in art and education in engineering, she decided to pursue packaging science. In her fifth quarter at RIT, she expects to graduate next fall with a bachelorís in packaging science.

"Life offers lots of opportunities. Suddenly something happens that gives you an opportunity you never thought of before and you find yourself doing something completely different," Goldenbaum says. "We take different paths in life than we expect. Things are difficult sometimes. But sometimes the awful things lead to new discoveries. It all seems to work out in the end."

PREP began at RIT in 1995 and enrolls 125 to 150 students per year. "PREP puts empty seats to the best possible use by offering them to people who, through no fault of their own, lose their jobs. It enables them to increase their skill sets, become more competitive in the workforce, and to make a difference in their lives," says Clark.

Someone who couldnít agree more with the need for continued education to stay competitive is Jackie Monahan. "Everyone should take at least one class a year to stay current in the job market," she says. "If I wasnít taking classes, Iíd be reading a trashy Jackie Collins book."

Monahan always wanted to go to college. She graduated from high school a year early and started work at Eastman Kodakójust for a year, she thought, before she went to college. 28 years later, she was still there.

She pursued higher education on and off, finally enrolling in night classes at RIT for two years. In August 2001, she was let go and decided to pursue school full-time. Only money held her back.

Through PREP, Monahan will get an associateís degree in business management through RITís multidisciplinary studies program.

Itís a degree sheíll have worked hard for.

"Work was a breeze compared to school. You want so badly to be perfect and sometimes you just canít," she explains.

Monahan says she used to have the attitude that experience was more important than education. But after being at RIT, she has a new appreciation for that university diploma.

About the PREP program

  • A prospective student must have worked full time for a minimum of 12 consecutive months prior to separation from their employer.
  • Only people who were laid off due to economic or business conditions qualify.
  • Dislocated workers must apply for PREP within six months of being let go.
  • A 60 percent discount is offered for credit-bearing courses for up to four consecutive academic quarters.
  • PREP students can register the business day preceding the day classes are scheduled to begin. Classes are open on a space-available basis.
  • PREP students can register for one or more courses and can take courses online.
  • Only matriculated students (either full- or part-time) can apply for additional financial aid.

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