Career Online High School: Celebrating Milestones, Changing Lives

6 min read

| By Gale Staff |

“For my personal and professional life, this program changed my life. It gave me courage and confidence. I’ve been offered a new position with the company I’m currently with. I’m so excited…Thank you so much.”

—Tammy D., graduate, Jacksonville Public Library

Imagine helping 1,500 adults—just like Tammy—realize the dream of earning a high school diploma. That’s exactly what more than 120 public libraries, large and small, have been able to accomplish together since Career Online High School began just four short years ago. Career Online High School is a nationally accredited program that allows adult students to earn a high school diploma while gaining career skills in one of ten employment fields.

The Power of One

Along with impacting individual lives, Career Online High School can help improve the fabric of a community. For instance, throughout one high school graduate’s lifetime, he or she contributes an estimated $73,125 in additional local, state, and federal tax revenue.1 On the flip side, one high school graduate can save taxpayers approximately $292,000 in costs, mostly at the local and state level.2 With figures like these, it’s easy to see how Career Online High School could play a positive role in bolstering the local economy, one success story at a time.

Reimagining Learning Coast to Coast

Gale first launched COHS in January of 2014 in partnership with Smart Horizons Career Online Education. So far, more than 120 library systems have joined in, including those through state libraries in California, Colorado, and Florida. There are new libraries beginning to roll out this program, such as Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina as well as Boston and Milwaukee Public Libraries.

The first library to offer COHS was the Los Angeles Public Library. In the four years they’ve provided this program, more than 135 students have graduated. John Szabo, city librarian, sees this area of library service as part of an evolution in public libraries—going from repositories and organizers of information to active learning institutions that have a measurable impact.

“Diplomas change lives; education changes lives; and the library will continue to offer innovative ways in which all our community members can change their lives for the better,” Szabo says.

How the Program Works

While age requirements vary by library (typically 19 years old and up), prospective students must pass a short online assessment, a 2-week prerequisite course, and attend an in-person interview to become eligible for a library scholarship. Once he or she is accepted into the program, COHS pairs the student with an academic coach. The coach offers guidance and connects them to the learning resources they need to build confidence and succeed.

Before covering core academic subjects, coursework begins in one of ten high-demand career fields ranging from childcare to homeland security. Two of them, Hospitality and Leisure and Home Care Professional, are new to COHS this year.

Flexible Schedule

Along with a positive learning environment, COHS offers adult learners the flexibility they need. Because the coursework is online, students can work toward completion according to their own schedule.

Yvette Moutran from Tucson, Arizona is a great example. At age 36, she enrolled in COHS through the Pima Public Library. She was one of the library’s first COHS graduates and received a career certificate in office management along with her high school diploma.

“Don’t ever think, ‘Oh, my schedule is too busy, I can’t do [school]’”, said Moutran. “Even if you dedicate an hour [a day] to it, you can achieve it. We tend to make a lot of excuses, and I think if you’re willing and committed, act on it. It’s so easy to do.”4

Moutran added that completing the program was a big accomplishment. She said, “It was a second chance at what I lost a long time ago. When I was looking to get my diploma, it was driven by job security… However, having accomplished the program has given me a new sense of confidence. I am very interested in getting an associate degree in sociology, substance abuse, or domestic violence. This will allow me to put a degree and life experience to work and help others… It’s a life-changing program.”5

Making an Impact

The size or affluency of your community isn’t a precursor to whether COHS can be of value. Take Frisco, Texas for example. While the median household income is six figures,6 that doesn’t negate the fact that COHS has been a positive addition to the Frisco Public Library.

Frisco Public Library Director, Shelley Holley, said, “This program is at the core of the library’s commitment to equal educational opportunities. While Frisco enjoys generally high graduation rates, the impact on residents without high school diplomas is shown to be more profound in affluent cities such as ours.”

A Positive for Libraries 

COHS is a natural venue for public libraries. It aligns with your library’s mission and reinforces your support of adult literacy, GED preparation, and workforce development. Plus, many libraries report they’ve gained added exposure in the community by building stronger partnerships with local organizations and from the media attention at the launch and during graduation events. It not uncommon to for a mayor, council person, or other stakeholders to speak at a library’s COHS graduation ceremony.

The bottom line: libraries across the county are finding Career Online High School to be a positive experience for all involved. Katrina Evans, Library Director at Columbia County Public Library has this to say, “the library and its staff have been thrilled to be a part of the Career Online High School program and to see, firsthand, how students have seized the opportunity to make a better future for themselves. We consider the program to be a wonderful success story in Columbia County.”

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1Trostel, P, 2015, It’s not just the money: the benefits of college education to individuals and to society, Lumina issue papers, Lumina Foundation, Indianapolis, viewed 17 Oct 2017,

2Khatiwada, I., McLaughlin, J., Palma, S., & Sum, A., (2009, October) The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Cost for Taxpayers, Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

3U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Fastest Growing Occupations,” viewed 14 June 2018,

4Tucson Life, “This free library program gave these Tucson women a second chance at a diploma,”

5Smart Horizon Career Online Education graduate exit survey.

6United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts, Frisco, Texas, viewed 14 June 2018, Air Jordan Retro 1 Red Black White – Buy Air Jordan 1 Retro (white / black / varsity red), Price: $60.85 – Air Jordan Shoes

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