Member Stories

Free College Program Gives Librarian’s Son Storybook Beginning

CWA member Cheryl Conselyea was thrilled to discover that her son Ryan was eligible to enroll in the Union Plus Free College Program. Ryan has been able to take advantage of the program’s flexible schedule to take business classes while he continues working as a plumber’s assistant. 


New Jersey CWA Member Cheryl Conselyea’s son, Ryan, is a plumber’s assistant. He tried traditional college, but the schedule didn’t work for him. 

“When I got the Free College email from Union Plus, he was so excited. He was just like, ‘Wow, this is for me!’ He had about a week to apply,” Conselyea remembers.

Conselyea works as a supervising library assistant at Passaic County’s Clifton Public Library, a particularly busy branch. 

“I love my staff and working with the public is great. We organized with CWA 12 years ago. They introduced us to Union Plus and all the special programs they provide,” she recalls. 

The Union Plus Free College Program partners with AFSCME and Eastern Gateway Community College to offer online courses and degree programs with no out-of-pocket cost to active or retired union members and their eligible family members, including spouses, domestic partners, children (including stepchildren and children-in-law), financial dependents and grandchildren.

Conselyea says her son has had to pinch himself—he couldn’t believe that he could take classes for free and on his own time. 

“Ryan is thriving,” Conselyea says. “The whole process for his enrollment was pretty seamless. His classes are so flexible, and most importantly, the program just calibrates right with his schedule.” 

Ryan is pursuing his associate degree and hopes that learning about business will equip him as he gets deeper into his trade career and potentially starts his own venture. 

“This Free College program is such an opportunity for adults and the children of union members to get a free education. I tell everyone I know about it,” says Conselyea.

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Union Plus Free College

Helping Union Families with the Cost of College Education
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