Bringing College Credit to Libraries with Peer-Led Learning Circles

This press release was originally posted by College Unbound: New College Pathways Provide Credentials Towards A Degree For Adult Learners

Walmart awarded a grant to College Unbound (CU) to provide adult learners with the short- and long-term skills needed for the future of work and economic mobility. CU will partner with Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) to bring college directly to students through their public libraries, delivering new pathways to degree certification via peer-led learning opportunities. The pilot program will begin in Fall 2021 with six public libraries in Rhode Island and broaden to a national audience in 2022.

Traditional pathways through higher education do not suit the new student majority: working and/or parenting students. “Equity in education requires that instead of demanding that students are college ready, we must ensure colleges are student ready. Colleges must come to students where they are,” stated CU Provost Adam Bush.

Libraries offer flexible and accessible sites for lifelong learning, a resource that often goes under the radar of higher education. With the support of Walmart, CU and P2PU will develop credited and credentialed lifelong learning programs specifically for libraries based on CU’s core Leadership and Change curriculum, bringing academic education to new locations and audiences. 

“PPL is thrilled to be able to highlight the learning and lived experience of our patrons with academic credit and professional credentials through this collaboration with CU and P2PU,” commented Providence Public Library Executive Director Jack Martin.

CU is the only Rhode Island college designed for working and parenting adults, and a model for peer institutions. CU envisions a future of higher education in which students create their own lifelong learning pathways based on experiences in public and professional spaces, thus enabling economic advancement through skill acquisition, personal transformation and degree completion. P2PU supports community-based learning programs (“learning circles”) at small, urban and rural libraries across the country that are designed to serve historically under-reached communities; more than half of learning circle participants have no prior experience with online learning.

About College Unbound

College Unbound (CU) is an innovative, accredited college with a mission to reinvent the higher education experience for underserved adult learners, using a student-driven model of rigorous and engaged scholarship. CU specializes in getting students on a path to a Bachelor’s degree, keeping them focused on that goal, and supporting them in every way necessary to achieve it while they work and raise families. Students meet in person and online in student cohorts that stay together and motivate each other through degree completion. Students are aged 17-61; 35% of students identify as Latinx, 27% as white, and 21% as African-American. 65% of students receive federal Pell Grants. 75% of CU’s first independent class of students graduated within 3.5 years, and 94% have graduated to date.

About Peer 2 Peer University

Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating peer learning communities in public spaces around the world. P2PU was born out of the 2007 Cape Town Open Education Declaration and has been active in the field of open education ever since, establishing the first open badging standard with Mozilla, developing the tools that supported some of the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) experiments, and nurturing online learning communities with a variety of audiences around the globe. Since 2015, P2PU has helped dozens of public library systems to run learning circles: free, lightly-facilitated peer learning groups that meet regularly to work through open educational resources. To date, more than 10,000 participants have gained skills driven by professional or learning goals: getting a new job, writing a book, building a website for a small business, or gaining entry into higher education.

About Philanthropy at Walmart represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By leaning in where our business has unique strengths, we work to tackle key social issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 27 countries, employing more than 2 million associates and doing business with thousands of suppliers, who, in turn, employ millions of people. is helping people live better by supporting programs that work to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, address hunger and make healthier, more sustainably-grown food a reality, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit or find on Twitter @walmartorg.

Is your library interested in participating in the national pilot of credit-bearing learning circles? Register your interest here!

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