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The main branch of the Chattanooga Public Library is located on Broad Street between 10th and 11th streets in downtown Chattanooga.

How to sign up

Enrollment begins Jan. 26 for the library's scholarship. It's open to people at least 19 years old. Applicants must have a library card and at least an eighth-grade education. They must complete an online self-assessment, prerequisite course and interview process. To apply, go to www.chattlibrary.org.

High school dropouts can go back to school and get their diplomas -- through the Chattanooga Public Library.

The library on Tuesday announced it will grant scholarships to 25 people to cover the $2,000 tuition at Career Online High School, an Internet high school that issues an accredited diploma.

"It's the real deal," Library Director Corinne Hill said. "You can go to Harvard with this. The people who have finished the program, 78 percent of them have gone on to get a higher education."

Students also get a credentialed certificate showing they've done coursework for an in-demand career, such as child caregiver, truck driver or security officer.

Only about a dozen other public libraries, including those in Los Angeles, Denver and New Orleans, offer the online high school education.

The Chattanooga Public Library, which has been recognized for other innovations such as its fourth-floor "maker space," will spend $2,000 on each scholarship for a total of $50,000.

"The one thing that Mayor [Andy] Berke is trying to do here in Chattanooga is to create a city of learning," Hill said. "This fits right into that."

Another inspiration was the number of library users who check out material to study for a general educational development certificate.

"People are always coming in for our GED books," said library assistant Sarah Anne Brewer, who's manager of the online high school program.

Roughly 39,000 of Hamilton County adults lack a high school diploma, said Suzanne Elston, the director of the adult education program at Chattanooga State Community College. The program is run in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Labor.

Roughly 700 people take adult education classes through Chatt State, Elston said. While some of the adult-ed students go online to study, including through the Khan Academy, many lack the necessary reading and computer skills, she said.

"Many of our students require a more hands-on approach," Elston said.

Hill said the library's program is geared for people who dropped out in 11th grade and five years later are wishing they hadn't.

"It's for the people who got frustrated," she said.

The library is offering the Career Online High School in partnership with Gale/Cengage Learning, a Boston-based publisher of educational materials that has some 5,500 employees in 20 countries.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

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