Higher Education

College Access and Success

Posted on February 11, 2013. Filed under: Higher Education |

Higher education in the United States is in peril.  The economy is floundering with moderately high unemployment or underemployment, large federal and state budget cuts are unfolding, and yet, educational costs continue to rise.  More private-school oriented families are applying to state schools, and inadvertently, pushing out first generation, low income, and or ALANA students; some of whom may have been border line admits and would have received admission prior to this recession.  As conversations like affordability, access, retention, and literacy play a larger role in restructuring post-secondary education; we are reluctantly forced to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of our academic and student services on our campuses and communities.

To support these endeavors, colleges and universities must establish successful community partnerships with their local public schools and non-profit organizations, develop strong home and school relationships with program participants, and have structured academic support programs around core collegiate skills and experiences – critical thinking, problem solving, reading and writing comprehension skills.

In order to establish these partnerships, institutions must communicate with local principles, guidance counselors, and teachers on a regular basis to discuss areas for improvement.  Some of the support initiatives include problem solving, critical thinking, and academic workshops.  They must also assist with interventions to assess and solve immediate problems with access and success program participants.  Many of these access and retention initiatives include academic and financial support, college planning, and skill building workshops.  This can be done by utilizing a 4-tiered approach to successfully navigating the transition from high school to college – academic, personal, social, and financial.

Significant emphasis in sustaining high college access and retention rates is placed on finances.  Student loan debt has crippled students and their families for decades, totaling more than $1 trillion, a phenomenon highlighted by the recession.  As student loan debt increases and starting salaries decrease (considering for inflation), students and their families are faced with difficult decisions about their future livelihoods and careers.  As such, it is important to assist first generation, low income, and ALANA students in completing their FAFSA’s, research scholarships and grants, and understanding the impacts of loans (financial literacy).  Access and success programs must structure personal and social workshops by highlighting the importance of healthy lifestyles and relationships with peers, faculty, staff, and most importantly, themselves.  Academically, to focus on time management, critical thinking, and reading/writing comprehension, and most importantly, to use these approaches both in and outside the classroom.

Thus, as we transition from a country that once believed that college is for everyone and all MUST receive an education, perhaps now is the time to seriously consider the pedagogical models used in Germany, of which, the U.S. is beginning to understand and pursue via the community colleges.  Let’s be honest here, college isn’t for everyone.  Many incur significant debt, take a leave of absence to pay down this debt, and never return.  Some complete their studies (most now in 5 – 6 years), graduate, expect to find a job, and are met with a grim job market and economy.  There are many other reasons to support this notion.  As a  result, these students are unable to pay down their debt (educational loans), default on payments, and begin their young careers saturated in debt, horrible credit, and poor job prospects.

The question remains.  What is the purpose of providing educational services if the end result is debt? Approximately 25% of college graduates do not have debt.  I’d argue that they come from affluent families who can afford their education or were excellent students who received full academic scholarships.  Either way, both paths are rooted in strong home and school environments with numerous opportunities for personal and academic growth – opportunities often times not afforded to low income, first generation, and ALANA students.  Who is truly benefiting? The student/family? The financial institutions? Colleges/Universities? Given decades of record debt and disparity…you decide.

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Issues in College Access

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: Higher Education |

As parents and students try to determine their academic fate during these turbulent economic times, higher education is experiencing a phenomenon that many institutions are trying to capitalize on, while other institutions struggle to survive.

Many smaller, tuition-driven institutions, are using this economic collapse as an opportunity to re-evaluate their core values and identities as they try to take hold of a student market traditionally oriented toward large state and private institutions.  As tuition costs remain relatively high for private and large state schools, current and future students are forced to reconsider their original ‘cost-benefit’ analysis (how many loans can we take in order to graduate from a well-known school).  The rough economy has forced families to shy from the traditional approach and to look at cheaper alternatives as interest rates and rising tuition and fees costs become significant factors.

According to the September 28th publication in the New York Times, “student lending has been shaken by the credit crisis, which threatened to cut off the supply of student loans from private lenders by depriving them of a means of raising fresh capital*.” TRANSLATED: “higher quality students” are now applying/attending to public and smaller private institutions, forcing out those students who may not have had the GPA’s or SAT’s to be admitted into the large state or private institutions.  So what happens to this large population of students?

So now, we’ve got middle and upper-middle class families applying to ‘2nd-tier’ institutions, and colleges and universities are trying to profit from this new market.  School rankings are directly related to numerous factors, many of which are; average GPA scores, tuition & fees, number of applicants, alumni participation, and so forth.  So, these institutions are quickly re-evaluating themselves to determine how they can increase their school rankings by admitting these “higher quality students”, and essentially tossing away the garbage (“less-qualified students,” aka: first-generation families, low income, and racial/ethnic minorities).  What will happen to these students? Are they forced to attend community colleges and transfer into 4-year institutions? What are 2-year institutions doing to capitalize on this market? Marketing themselves as the ‘cheaper alternative’?

College access is an important component to the future development of our leaders, country, and global position.  If we are to remain a competitive country, we need to ensure we can provide a high-quality education to all students, regardless of their creed or affiliations.  The marginalization of underserved and underrepresented students in higher education will be detrimental to the development of these communities and to this country as a whole.  Where do we go from here? How do we solve this problem? President Obama has vowed his dedication to improving educational standards in this country…let’s just hope he doesn’t forget about this large populations of students and families.

* http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/student_loans/index.html

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Self-Reflection: Obama, Politics, and Race

Posted on November 14, 2008. Filed under: Higher Education |

It has come to my attention recently, that after speaking with dozens of students across a variety of institutions throughout the northeast and other colleagues at these respective institutions, there is a recurring concern among college administrators that the current millennium generation may not understand the significance of the election of Barack Obama.  This is signified by the fact that there are very limited, if any, conversations or any other forms of extra-curricular programming, few debates between student political groups, and no celebrations.

Perhaps if the teachers sacrificed a day out of their curriculum to discuss the election, students may have taken a moment to reflect, however, students are forced to bury their noses in books and meetings, and haven’t made the opportunities to ask faculty, staff, or members of the administration, about the election and their reactions.  Is it due to the fact that this generation expects things to be done for them or is it the fear of discussing politics regarding a BLACK PRESIDENT? There are numerous reasons as to why these conversations may not be happening, for example, lack of parental involvement, peer influence, lack of concern, and so forth.

What’s my self-reflection? First off, I’m not going to discuss whether I think he’s qualified or not, but rather, the image he represents for millions of people in this country.  I’m willing to extend this number to billions, to people all over the world, that as immigrants, your children can become president of this beautiful country.  Well, I think the election of Obama and its significance stands more of a symbol, an image, a for a lack of better words, a reality for parents and grand-parents, to honestly believe, that when they tell their children or grandchildren that they “can do anything that they put their minds to,” they can believe it.  President Elect Obama is an image for the millions of disadvantaged and underprivileged citizens.  He is HOPE in the change and or the re-emergence of the U.S.’s global image and politics.  He embodies the CHANGE that the Civil Rights movement fought for, he is the new Michael Jordan, the symbol of fortitutde and strength for the weak, and is is the reality of the many dreams dreamt since the 60’s.

Who will you be? I am a vehicle of CHANGE.

More to come.

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