Please join us in welcoming Jason Piatt, Director, Online Compliance and Communication, Kent State Online Kent State University to the Frontiers blog as he shares an important leadership message with us today. Thank you Jason for sharing your insight with us.
Like all of us, when travelling or attending business and social functions, I am often asked about my career. Normally, I simply answer that I do compliance work in higher education related to online programs. When pressed for more details, I often provide an elevator pitch on consumer protection and state authorization. However, after reflecting on these conversations, I’ve come to the realization that the work we do in state authorization is really about relationship building; the heart of which involves complex and intense collaboration with a wide variety of professionals in compliance and regulatory fields, as well as internal and external stakeholders.
And although we can argue that our work serves to mitigate risk for our respective institutions, at its core, compliance work serves a nobler purpose – to participate in the process of providing fellow citizens with a quality educational experience so they can achieve personal and professional success. By proxy, this success contributes to the greater good of our world.
It is within the spirit of these ideas that I offer suggestions on how we can balance the need for career fulfillment via engagement and leadership while simultaneously serving our students and actively contributing to our profession.
Over the last few years, I’ve had positively wonderful experiences within the world of state authorization – experiences that have changed me as a professional and as an individual. I have had the distinct honor and privilege to work alongside some of the most dedicated, smart, tenacious, and fearless professionals I’ve ever known. I attribute my growth and willingness to step outside my comfort zones to my incredible friends and colleagues.
These individuals showed me that fearless engagement is a key component of growth. But, what do I mean by fearless engagement? Fearless engagement is simply the process of being willing to put yourself out there, of becoming a knowledgeable and confident resource, of being comfortable with ambiguity, and being willing to think outside the box to find solutions. It involves asking questions, learning how to really listen, and contributing fully to an extensive and powerful support system.
There are a variety of ways to fearlessly engage. Some include contributing to digital and in-person discussions with colleagues, while others involve commitment to collaboration, curating knowledge and information, and even taking on leadership or volunteer roles. Organizations such as WCET and the State Authorization Network (SAN) provide platforms for such contributions and a variety of opportunities for professional growth.
By forging connections with friends and colleagues, you build and contribute to an incredible network of experts in areas as diverse as business, professional licensure, finance, law, curriculum, technology, and other related fields. The act of participating in this knowledge collective undergirds fearless engagement and challenges us to fully embrace our responsibilities as 21st century compliance professionals.
Leaving your ego at the door
State authorization can be some of the most frustrating, nuanced, complex, exciting, and layered work one can do in his or her professional career. It demands a vast array of skills and competencies, challenges our expectations, and pushes us to solve problems in creative ways. Our long-running joke about “it depends” succinctly describes the overt ambiguity we deal with on a daily basis and underscores the need for patience and constant diligence.
Like all professionals, knowing when to ask for help is a key component of success and is acutely true for state authorization. While engaged in compliance work, we must possess a healthy dose of humility. When it comes to state authorization, you can never make too many phone calls, get too many opinions, or seek too much counsel.
However, this willingness to approach your work in a humble manner goes beyond asking for help. We often have to check our ego at the door and be comfortable taking a backseat to another expert or admitting we cannot be all things to all people. Only by embracing our limitations can we give ourselves room to grow and the impetus to become full contributors to our knowledge collective.
Although the word “leadership” is casually bandied about in the workplace, it plays a central role in the success of state authorization professionals. The kind of leadership I reference is not predicated by title, position, or status but rather, by action. The very act of representing your institution, interacting with program coordinators, deans, directors and external regulators makes you a leader. Providing consultative services to internal and external stakeholders makes you a leader. Participation in and contribution to professional organizations and the knowledge collective makes you a leader.
Leaders function to drive ideas and provide information so others can make informed decisions. And although you may believe you are not in a clear leadership role, you are in essence providing leadership and performing a valuable service for your institution. At the end of the day, adopting a leadership mindset can help overcome obstacles and provide opportunities to benefit your institution and students.
If you have not already, I would encourage you take advantage of any institutional training and development in leadership as it will no doubt enhance your ability to make connections, recognize opportunities, overcome obstacles, and grow professionally and personally. I would also highly recommend participation in the aforementioned State Authorization Network (SAN) and its related professional development opportunities. I have found participating in SAN to be critical to my professional and personal growth; the contributions I can make and the opportunities for connections to other SAN colleagues are exceptional.
Anaïs Nin wrote that life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. So, let’s make a commitment to push those boundaries. Let’s deeply engage and step far out of our comfort zones. Let’s collaborate and contribute, and help keep our knowledge collective a strong and robust resource for years to come.
Director, Online Compliance and Communication,
Kent State Online
Kent State University
Nothing says, “Welcome to adulthood” quite like getting your first student loan bill in the mail. If student loans are your reality, here are some tips that may help you (from someone who is going through this too).1. Don’t ignore your student loans!
I think everyone can agree that student loans are no fun to pay back, but ignoring them can have serious consequences (and it won’t make them go away.) If you’re worried about your student loans or don’t think you can afford your payments, contact us for help. No matter what your financial situation is, we can help you find an affordable repayment option. For many, that could mean payments as low as $0 per month.2. Set a budget.
Life after graduation gets real, real fast. To make a plan to tackle your student loans, you need to understand what money you have coming in, and what expenses you have going out. If you haven’t already, it’s important that you create a budget. This will help determine your repayment strategy. Here are some budgeting tips to help you get started.3. Choose an affordable payment amount.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to paying back student loans. The key question you need to answer is: Do you want to get rid of your loans quickly or do you want to pay the lowest amount possible per month?
With our Standard Repayment Plan, the plan you’ll enter if you don’t take any action, you’ll have your loans paid off in 10 years. If you can’t afford that amount or if you need or want lower payments because you haven’t found a job, aren’t making much money, or want to free up room in your budget for other expenses and goals, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan. Your monthly payments will likely be lower than they would on the standard plan—in fact they could be as low as $0 per month—but you’ll likely be paying more and for a longer period of time. If you choose an income-driven plan, you must provide documentation of your income to your loan servicer each year (even if your income hasn’t changed) so that your payment can be recalculated. To compare the different repayment options based on your loan debt, family size, and income, use our repayment calculator.
4. Research forgiveness options.
There are legitimate ways to have your loans forgiven, but there are often very specific requirements you must meet in order to qualify. Research forgiveness programs ASAP, as it may affect your repayment strategy. For example, if you’re interested in Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you’ll want to make sure you have the right type of loans from the get-go (which may mean you have to consolidate), and you’ll want to make sure to get on an income-driven repayment plan.5. Sign up for automatic payments.
If you don’t like thinking about your student loans, this is a great solution! Ok, ok, so you’ll still have to think about your loans and make sure you have the money in your account to cover your monthly payments, but you won’t have to worry about missing payments, writing checks, or logging into websites every month to pay your loans manually. Sign up for automatic debit through your loan servicer and your payments will be automatically taken from your bank account each month. As an added bonus, you get a 0.25% interest rate deduction when you enroll!6. Make extra payments whenever you can (and specify how you want those payments applied).
Pay early. Pay often. Pay extra. If you want to ensure that your loan is paid off faster, tell your servicer two things. First, tell them that the extra you pay is not intended to be put toward future payments. Second, tell them to apply the additional payments to your loan with the highest interest rate. By doing this, you can reduce the amount of interest you pay and reduce the total cost of your loan over time.7. Don’t postpone payments unless you really need to.
One of the flexible repayment options we offer is the ability to temporarily stop (postpone) your student loan payments. This is called a deferment or forbearance. While they can be helpful solutions if you’re experiencing a temporary hardship, these are not good long-term solutions. Why? Because in most cases, interest will continue to accrue (accumulate) on your loan while you’re not making payments and may be capitalized (cause interest to accrue on interest). When you resume repayment (which you will have to do eventually) your loan balance will probably be even higher than it was before. If you’re having financial trouble, why set yourself back even further by doing this? There are often better solutions available. Before choosing deferment or forbearance, ask about enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. Under those plans, if you make little or nothing, you pay little or nothing. Additionally, with the income-driven repayment plans, you’re working toward loan forgiveness while making a lower payment. Before postponing your payments, consider your other options.8. Take advantage of the FREE federal student loan assistance the government provides.
Each federal student loan borrower is assigned to a loan servicer (some borrowers may have more than one servicer, depending on the types of loans you have). Your loan servicer is a company that collects your student loan payments and provides customer service on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. This is a FREE service. There are many companies out there who offer to help you with your student loans for a fee. Do not trust these companies. Remember: You never have to pay for help with your student loans. If you need advice, assistance, or help applying for one of our repayment programs, contact your loan servicer. They can help you for free. Just remember to keep your contact information up to date so they can reach you when they need to.
Student loans can seem overwhelming at first, but by taking this advice and setting up a repayment strategy that works for you, you’ll master your student loans in no time!
Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.
Cross-posted from the Stopbullying Blog.
School continues to be a dangerous place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. A 2014 study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 65% of LGBT students heard homophobic remarks frequently or often, 56% of LGBT students reported personally experiencing LGBT-related discriminatory policies or practices at school, and 33% of LGBT students were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
“Despite increased public acceptance of LGBT people in general, many school campuses remain toxic environments for LGBT students, contributing to higher rates of suicide, depression, homelessness and HIV infection,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.
In 2013, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in coordination with other community partners, including the GSA Network, developed and launched OUT for Safe Schools™ to help make schools safer for LGBT students. More than 30,000 rainbow badges were provided to LAUSD teachers, administrators, and staff to wear voluntarily that proudly identify themselves as allies and protectors of students who are LGBT.
“We approached LAUSD about developing this program to create visible adult allies throughout the entire school system, helping LGBT youth feel safe and supported while helping to deter would-be bullies,” said Jean. “Now, wherever students look, they’re sure to see adults who proudly identify themselves as allies for LGBT students.”
“Since its launch, OUT for Safe Schools™ has enriched the lives of both students and staff members in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” said the LAUSD’s Board President Steve Zimmer. “A whopping 30,000 of our employees—representing one-third of LAUSD’s entire staff—pledged to be visible allies of LGBT students by wearing the rainbow-designed badges. I have worn mine every day—there is nothing I am more proud to wear. I applaud my district for stepping up to the plate and keeping all of our schools a safer space. No child should ever be bullied, taunted or harassed simply because they’re different.”
Almost immediately the Center began fielding requests from other school districts to expand the program. So in 2015, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and GSA Network collaborated to give 50,000 teachers and other staff in participating districts a new way to “come out” as supportive LGBT allies with plans to support as many school districts as are interested in the program. During LGBT Awareness Month, the Center and GSA Network introduced the program in eight other cities throughout the country—New York, Chicago, Boston, Oakland, San Diego, Duval County (Florida), San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.—reaching more than 2.5 million students in grades K–12. The OUT for Safe Schools™ badges were part of a larger comprehensive effort by these districts to support LGBT students that includes training teachers and school staff, supporting GSA clubs, and working to engage parents and families to increase support.
Noah Jenkins is an 18-year-old self-identified genderqueer graduate of a school in South Los Angeles that participated in the OUT for Safe Schools™ program.
“The OUT for Safe Schools™ campaign played such an important role in my high school development. It was incredibly comforting to see so many teachers and other staff wearing the badges, because I never expected to feel welcomed in high school,” said Jenkins. “Because of the badge, I was able to be so much more open about myself, knowing that someone had my back. School is already stressful and it was a huge comfort to not have to worry about my safety because of who I am. These badges are a visible reminder to LGBT students that we are not alone, and for many, this reminder will quite literally save their lives.”
As evidenced by its success in LAUSD and 2015 national launch, the OUT for Safe Schools™ program is an important component of comprehensive efforts and ongoing work to keep our kids safe at school. A 2014 study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network found that LGBT students with 11 or more supportive staff at their school were much less likely to feel unsafe than students with no supportive staff (36% vs. 74%) and had higher GPAs (3.3 vs. 2.8). Unfortunately, only 39% of those surveyed could identify 11 or more supportive staff at their school. The OUT for Safe Schools™ badge has become a way of identifying a mobile, human safe space, creating visible adult allies throughout the entire school system which help LGBT youth feel safe and supported while helping to deter would-be bullies. The badge is not just a symbol – it shows that the wearer can be approached if an LGBT youth needs help to feel safe at school.
Project SPIN and Out For Safe Schools™ are supported by Jeanne Phillips and Walter Harris representing The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota. The national rollout was made possible, in part, by a generous $100,000 challenge grant from the David & Linda Shaheen Foundation. The philanthropic couple have been longtime supporters of the Center and fearless advocates for education and youth.
Antonio David Garcia is a former educator, coach and Executive Director of two LGBT Michigan Community Centers and currently serves as the Director of Policy and Community Building at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Two words dominated the conversation at ED’s Tea with Teachers last week on the topic of supporting undocumented students: fear and hope. Educators balanced their concerns for their undocumented and mixed-status students, while acknowledging the hope that they ultimately deserve. During the tea, I couldn’t help but think of the student from my school district, who was sitting in a jail cell rather than a classroom, feeling those same emotions.
Wildin David Guillen Acosta was taken from his front yard on his way to his Durham, N.C., school in January, while his mother watched helplessly from their home. He would later join nine other students from North Carolina and Georgia whose parents and classmates also witnessed their arrests from bus stops, homes, and neighborhoods. While The Department of Homeland Security has designated schools with sanctuary status, teachers across the Southeast are arguing that ICE raids are threatening our students’ daily lives as their justifiable anxieties are occupying what could otherwise be devoted to their academic pursuits.
Teachers nodded in unison as we heard testimonials of students and family members who were taken from us by ICE or who suffer from PTSD from the threats that ICE raids pose. We questioned how we can engage our biggest allies, our students’ families, when schools serve as an intimidating environment. As César Moreno Pérez of the American Federation of Teachers stated at the tea, ICE raids are, “eroding the hope that educators worked so hard to build” in immigrant communities across our nation.
The threat of deportations is just the beginning of an undocumented student’s concerns. Teachers shared frustration with the barriers that are created as a result of misinformation, particularly post-secondary financial barriers. Secretary King acknowledged that some states are more committed to supporting our undocumented students’ collegiate goals, and this is certainly the case for me, as I noted that my former students in Colorado attend college with in-state tuition, while my current students in North Carolina have found limited options when searching for scholarships and financial aid.
Most notably, it is not just students who are vulnerable to the instability of our complex immigration system. A teacher with DACA status spoke of the important role that DACA qualifying teachers can play in inspiring students, yet this important role remains unstable as we wait for the results of the most recent Supreme Court case and next election. Since DACA is an executive order, the next President could remove it, making this teacher and others like her ineligible to do exactly what they feel called to do — show their own undocumented students that their dream career is within reach.
I left this tea once again with Wildin on my mind and an inbox full of resources from other teachers. It’s always inspiring to meet teacher leaders from across the country, and in this case, I feel more supported knowing they’re committed to empowering our students in the face of the barriers imposed on them.
Alice Dominguez is an English teacher at J.D. Clement Early College High School in Durham, North Carolina, and a founding member of a recently developed caucus to support undocumented students within the Durham Association of Educators. She previously taught in Las Vegas and Denver.