The Patton College of Education’s Stevens Literacy Center has been awarded an adult literacy grant from Aspire, making Ohio University the first four-year institution to receive such funding. 

The grant effectively makes the university the only institution in Ohio that can offer a GED through Ph.D. education. 

The Aspire program is the rebranding of the ABLE, or the Adult Basic Literacy Education program. 

The program is meant to allow “people who never got their high school diploma to get back in and (be) engaged to take the GED or equivalent test and get their high school diploma,” said Gary Cates, the senior vice chancellor at the Ohio Department of Higher Education, or ODHE.

The ODHE brought the Aspire program to a four-year institution for the first time because of the department’s shifting attitude toward adult education. 

“For the longest time, the program was seen as a destination in that people who never completed high school would get their diploma, and we wouldn’t do anything with them,” Cates said. “But now we recognize the value of not only getting people their high school diploma, but to get them into the pipeline for additional educational credentials and the job market.” 

Aspire students have many choices for higher education after getting their GED. They can participate in a career training program at the Tri-County Career Center, pursue an Associate’s degree at Hocking College or start on a Bachelor’s degree at OU. 

OU was selected largely in part because of its ability to offer family education in addition to adult education, Julie Barnhart Francis, the director of the Stevens Literacy Center, said. The Stevens Literacy Center is where the Aspire classes are held.

Students in the Patton College of Education can do educational activities with the children of adults involved in the Aspire program during classes. Parents can also be taught how to encourage learning at home and can take home material to reinforce educational topics covered during classes.

The Stevens Literacy Center also offers outreach family education, where Patton students will go to local schools and teach families how to use things like picture books to reinforce math concepts. 

OU and local community partners like OhioMeansJobs and the Tri-County Career Center are working together to be able to provide adult education to everyone across Athens County. Classes are free and transportation is available, Barnhart Francis said.

“It’s important for students to know that we have people here who want to help you be successful. We have a full array of services. Once you complete Aspire and get your GED, your opportunities are kind of limitless,” Cates said.