In addition to Saint Joseph’s on campus operations, the College also runs an extensive and flexible online program, allowing all students, especially those who cannot commit to a full time or on campus schedule, to earn the education they deserve. Saint Joe’s offers over 40 majors in undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. The College’s online program is uniquely student-focused, and each online student has their own faculty advisor, who helps them to select the correct courses for them, and helps to steer each student in the right direction. There is a whole on campus division on our Standish campus that focuses on online learning, and our online professors are leaders in their fields, and come from all over the nation. This online degree program can help numerous individuals, who never thought they could earn their degree, to take classes at their own pace, continue a full time job, learn remotely, and succeed where they thought they could not. These are the reasons that Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, out of North Carolina, has partnered with Saint Joseph’s, to help their parishioners, who never thought they could earn their degrees, achieve the seemingly impossible.
In February, Saint Joseph’s announced a tuition assistance partnership with Our Lady of Lourdes Church in North Carolina. Father Benjamin Roberts, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, established the partnership program with Saint Joseph’s last September, and says that the agreement “offers to all Our Lady of Lourdes parishioners, registered and attending, a 10 percent discount off tuition for all online programs for credit, associates through master’s degree… Additionally, the parish will reimburse at successful course completion another 10 percent.” This arrangement not only has special implementations for Father Roberts, who says “This will help the community in ways we can’t even imagine,” but also for Saint Joseph’s faculty member Carmina Chapp, Director of Online Theology Programs, who is a longtime friend, and former professor of, Father Roberts.
Chapp explains that prior to coming to Saint Joseph’s College, she “was an academic dean at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where [she] had the privilege of teaching many seminarians.” Fr. Benjamin Roberts is a former student of hers, who recently completed his doctorate in preaching at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis. Roberts is always looking for ways to help his parishioners, and he had a vision of assisting them, especially the recent high school graduates, to continue their education. “Knowing what I do now at Saint Joseph’s College,” Chapp said, “ he reached out to me again. Providentially, I had already begun thinking about how we could bring online higher education to low-income areas, so the parish model seemed like a good place to start.” This partnership “means an opportunity for higher education where such an opportunity is currently out of reach,” and Chapp points out that the mission statement of the college says that, “rooted in and professing fidelity to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and heritage of the Roman Catholic Church, Saint Joseph’s College, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, is a liberal arts college that nurtures intellectual, spiritual, and social growth in students of all ages and all faiths within a value-centered environment.” One of the ways the College claims to fulfill this mission is to “offer as an extension of its Mission to multiple areas of the world, both degree and non-degree programs through distance education.”
Chapp says that “education always has a ripple effect”, and that outside of the aspect of education, that the spirit of Saint Joseph’s will also spread wide and far though this program, breeding effects through the whole community, for “As our on-campus community goes out into the local community in Maine to serve, so can this community be leaven in Monroe to serve the needs of the community, inspire others to grow in their own gifts and talents, and to build the kingdom of God.” One exciting aspect of this program, as Chapp points out, is its extreme accessibility and broad range of material: “there is something for everyone – general and interdisciplinary studies, business, nursing, health administration, social work, and even a theology major. Many of our undergraduate programs offer a Fast-Track to Master’s option, which encourages our students to dream big!”
Father Roberts further explains the importance of this partnership by pointing out that “this discount is applicable regardless of immigration status.” Father Roberts says that “so many of [his] young parishioners are undocumented, which means at a state school they have to pay out-of-state tuition.” For many people this makes higher education unattainable, but with this tuition assistance, the Parish has created a concrete means of helping these individuals reach their educational goals. Chapp says that this program connects to the College’s history and mission in a very special way, because “our bringing this higher education opportunity to the immigrant community here is really part of the Sisters of Mercy mission to bring education to immigrant communities, and women in particular.”
Chapp says that the part of this all that she finds most special “is that we have an opportunity to provide high-quality Catholic education in an affordable and accessible way. Many Catholic colleges were founded to teach the poor and the immigrant, and this is one way we can remain true to our roots as a Catholic institution. My hope is that this model be successful and that we can replicate it in every diocese in the country.”
“There is something for everyone – general and interdisciplinary studies, business, nursing, health administration, social work, and even a theology major. Many of our undergraduate programs offer a Fast-Track to Master’s option, which encourages our students to dream big!”
Additionally, Father Roberts shared an example of one young woman’s journey in higher education, and how this opportunity will help her achieve her goals. This woman hopes to pursue a graduate degree at Saint Joe’s, but when she graduated with her bachelor’s degree, she was the first one to graduate from middle school, and high school in her family. With help from her Parish, she might be able to jump from a third- or fourth-grade or fifth-grade education, to a graduate degree in a single generation.
Since the partnership was announced, more than 30 parishioners have expressed an interest in pursuing a college degree, and two parishioners are set to begin online classes this June. Father Roberts recognizes that this partnership doesn’t necessarily make it easy for his parishioner to earn a college degree, but believes that it does make it possible.
Please join Saint Joseph’s in celebration of this new and exciting partnership, wishing good luck and a prosperous education to all those who decide to join our close knit family of Monks as we extend our charitable reach out to another community in need.
Howell, SueAnn. “Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Creates Unique Partnership and Tuition Assistance Program.” Catholicnewsherald.com, Catholic News Herald, 26 Feb. 2020