The Road Often Traveled: My Story of Student Loan Debt

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Fri, 2014-06-27 09:40

Dexter L. McCoy discussed college affordability and student loans with Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Bogalusa, the Louisiana town where I was born, is far from an example of economic success or upward mobility. With high unemployment and abject poverty, education is the only option for individuals who want to move beyond the community.

I was born to a teenage mother who, despite having a child when she was still a child herself, worked hard to achieve more than was expected in Bogalusa. She was fortunate to have hard-working parents who supported her, and she earned a scholarship to attend Louisiana State University. Yet, my mom had to take on the burden of significant student loans. My stepfather, son of a schoolteacher and an electrician, found that he, too, had to take out sizable loans. Years later, I was fortunate that my parents made sacrifices that took me away from Bogalusa to Houston, where I had exposure to more opportunity.

Going to college was seen as mandatory in my family. But, when they looked at just how much higher education would cost, their zeal for sending me to get my degree was dampened. Simply put, the $52,000 in tuition and fees at a university in Boston — a school I loved and wanted to attend — were too much for my parents to pay. Even with a partial scholarship, the education I sought was unaffordable for us. Like many middle-class Americans, my parents did not make enough to pay for my school, out-of-pocket, but earned too much for me to get enough financial aid. So, I had to take out student loans.

I was blessed with parents who helped pay for my education, despite still paying off their own student loans. I was also fortunate to work at on-campus jobs that helped ease the financial burden on my family. It was a lot to manage on top of being very active in campus leadership and having a rigorous course load, but somehow we found a way to make it work.

My time in college did not come without its share of problems, though. I had medical issues arise that required test upon test and numerous hospital visits in search of answers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the mounting financial burden became huge: my family was forced to decide if I would get the treatment I needed or continue paying for school. This choice is not one that any family should have to make.

We are told from an early age that college is the commodity necessary to have a stable, solid lifestyle and to be contributing members of society. The reality is, though, that college expenses are so great that many, including me, will have to work that much harder for years to get ahead of the tens of thousands of dollars we’ve had to take out in loans. It is a sobering thought, but one that we must face.

What other choice do we have?

Dexter L. McCoy graduated from college in May 2014. He recently attended a conversation on college affordability with Sec. Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden, where he discussed his experiences with student loan debt.

Categories: Higher Education News

Proposals by House Republicans Seek to Ease College-Application Process

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-06-27 02:55
Newly introduced bills would streamline the federal student-aid form and give students and their families better access to higher-education metrics.
Categories: Higher Education News

Starbucks Plan Shines a Light on the Profits in Online Education

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-06-27 02:55

That Arizona State University can offer big discounts suggests how much such institutions earn from distance learning.

Categories: Higher Education News

Key U.S. Official Wants to Ease Accreditors' Compliance-Monitoring Role

Chronicle of Higher Education - Thu, 2014-06-26 02:59

Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education, says much of that work might more appropriately belong to the state and federal governments.

Categories: Higher Education News

In O’Bannon Antitrust Case, NCAA’s Best Chance May Come on Appeal

Chronicle of Higher Education - Thu, 2014-06-26 02:55

With the trial concluding this week, legal experts say the plaintiffs have proved their case. But higher courts may not agree.

Categories: Higher Education News

5 Key Areas of the Senate Democrats’ Bill to Renew the Higher Education Act

Chronicle of Higher Education - Thu, 2014-06-26 02:55

The 785-page legislation reveals what the Democrats plan to push for in negotiations with House Republicans.

Categories: Higher Education News

Higher Expectations to Better Outcomes for Children with Disabilities

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Wed, 2014-06-25 10:11

President Obama has said that we are stronger when America fields a full team. Unfortunately, too many of the 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities in this country leave high school without the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in a 21st century, global economy. While the vast majority of students in special education do not have significant cognitive impairments that prohibit them from learning rigorous academic content, fewer than 10 percent of eighth graders with disabilities are proficient in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Too often, students’ educational opportunities are limited by low expectations. We must do better.

That’s why the Department is changing the way it holds states accountable for the education of students with disabilities. For many years, the Department primarily focused on whether states were meeting the procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Generally, we have seen significant improvement in compliance.

But if kids are leaving high school without the ability to read or do math at a high-school level, compliance is simply not enough. This year, we also focused on improving results when we made determinations as to whether states are effective in meeting the requirements and purposes of IDEA.

With this year’s IDEA determinations, we looked at multiple outcome measures of student performance, including the participation of students with disabilities in state assessments, proficiency gaps in reading and math between students with disabilities and all students, and performance in reading and math on NAEP.

I believe this change in accountability represents a significant and long-overdue raising of the bar for special education. Last year, when we only considered compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements.

This year, however, when we include data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.

In enacting IDEA, Congress recognized that improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.  We must do everything we can to support states, school districts, and educators to improve results for students with disabilities. We must have higher expectations for our children, and hold ourselves as a nation accountable for their success.

Michael Yudin is Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

Categories: Higher Education News

College Lawyers Confront a Thicket of Rules on Sexual Assault

Chronicle of Higher Education - Wed, 2014-06-25 02:59

Institutions want to protect their students, but some worry that campuses are being thrust into a law-enforcement role.

Categories: Higher Education News

The Solution to the Student-Loan ‘Crisis’? Depends on How You Define It

Chronicle of Higher Education - Wed, 2014-06-25 02:56

Proposals for helping student borrowers have proliferated lately. Here’s a look at ways of defining the problem, and potential solutions for each.

Categories: Higher Education News

House and Senate Offer Different Visions for Renewal of Higher Education Act

Chronicle of Higher Education - Wed, 2014-06-25 02:55

Republicans and Democrats each present plans to reauthorize the key law, with many similar goals but conflicting means to achieve them.

Categories: Higher Education News

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WICHE in the News - Tue, 2014-06-24 15:40
Categories: Higher Education News

Western Universities Join Group To Advise Chinese Government

Chronicle of Higher Education - Tue, 2014-06-24 14:31

NYU, Duke, and other universities with branch campuses in China are part of new association to help the country modernize its higher-education system. 

Categories: Higher Education News

Focusing on the Needs of Rural Students

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Tue, 2014-06-24 13:01

Students Emilea Pitts, John Hall, Amy Brewer, and Braxton Eiserman showcase the technology they use at Sebastian Middle School, a rural school located in Breathitt County, Kentucky. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

The National PTA has designated June as the Month of the Rural Child, a time when parents and communities explore ways to become involved and support students in rural schools.

Otha Thornton, President of the National PTA has noted, “Nearly one in four high school students in rural areas won’t graduate. To help address the unique challenges rural schools face and ensure all students graduate and reach their full potential, it is essential that families are engaged and that strong partnerships are built between families, schools and communities.”

For one rural Kentucky school district, technology is helping to create strong partnerships between schools and the community, and federal GEAR UP funds are helping to make this possible. Alonzo Fugate, GEAR UP Academic Specialist for Breathitt County Schools in eastern Kentucky, works with students on a weekly news program using iPads purchased with GEAR UP funds.

“Many of our students do not have access to technology at home, so it is vital that they are able to use it effectively in the schools,” he said. The program, featured on the school website, serves as a source of pride for the students and teachers involved and provides an avenue for parent and community involvement.

Some students are even planning their career paths based on their experiences. Fourteen-year-old Brooke started working with the school news program when she was in fifth grade and has been interested in becoming a news reporter ever since. The iPads also are important to  other class projects. For example, Brooke and another student recently created an app called “Fashion SOS” for a science fair project, which blended their personal interests in the fashion industry with technology, resulting in a unique educational experience.

In the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, students in Breathitt County face the challenges of going to school in rural America: traveling longer distances to get to school, having limited access to technology at home, overcoming geographic isolation, and contending with limited financial and educational resources. Thanks to the introduction of technology in the classroom, students there are now provided with the tools that can help them graduate high school college-and-career ready.

In his recent remarks to the National PTA, Secretary Arne Duncan referenced nearby Leslie County High School in Hayden, Kentucky, as another model of success in rural education. In 2010, it was ranked 224 out of the state’s 230 high schools. Today, the school is ranked 16th in the state and graduates 99 percent of its students thanks to the extraordinary commitment from the leaders and educators who joined forces to turn things around.

“Every student – no matter where they come from, what zip code they live in, or challenges they face – deserves the opportunity to truly learn and succeed,” Secretary Duncan said. That statement rings true this June—during the Month of the Rural Child—and every day.

McKenzie Baecker is an intern in ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education and is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Categories: Higher Education News

Bracken Academy Runs on STEAM Power

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Tue, 2014-06-24 10:51

There’s a school in Nevada with an unusual name that is helping students to achieve promising results: Bracken STEAM Academy of Las Vegas.

The STEAM in Bracken’s name comes from its focus on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, with the largest emphasis on engineering. The school also is placing a renewed focus on holding all students to rigorous, college- and career-ready standards.

Michelle Wheatfill, who teaches Bracken fifth-graders and has taught at the school for nine years, sees a difference in the classroom after teaching with heightened standards. “The students are learning exponentially,” Wheatfill said. “And because of the technology we have, they take charge of a lot of their learning. We’re there just to help guide them, instead of teaching every lesson with direct instruction.”

Teacher Michelle Wheatfill introduces a lesson to her 5th grade class. (Photo Credit: Clark County School District)

Victoria Zblewski, a fourth-grade teacher with seven years of experience at Bracken, agrees. “As a result of the higher standards, my students are able to explain why we’re doing something,” she said. “We actually have kids write out their thinking, not just write their answer.”

But what do the students think of how they’re being taught? Wynn, a third-grader, said that she likes the opportunities that are presented. “Bracken is so good because the teachers don’t stop you at certain levels. They keep pushing you so you can keep going higher and get better.”

“Bracken is such a good school because the teachers push us to our level,” said Aden, a fifth-grade student. “I like when we get to do accelerated levels.”

Principal Kathleen Decker, who has led Bracken for 13 years, also sees the differences. “I’m in the classrooms all the time,” Decker said. “I do see teachers using a lot more hands-on, a lot more project-based learning, and a lot more differentiated and individualized instruction than in the past.”

Bracken’s commitment to higher standards is supported with two grants from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The Bracken STEAM Academy’s collaboration with Las Vegas’ Smith Center for the Performing Arts is funded by the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Program which, in turn, is supported by ED’s Arts in Education National Program.

In addition, ED provides the school with $27,000 per year in a Title I grant, which helps keep the computer labs open before and after school, and funds a parent volunteer coordinator.

Principal Decker emphasized that teaching the children is the top priority and, one way or another, supporting the kids will always get done. At the same time, Decker said, “The federal money we receive at Bracken helps us engage everybody. The dollars do make a difference.”

Joe Barison is the director of communications and outreach for ED’s San Francisco Regional Office.

 

Categories: Higher Education News

Recognizing the Importance of Fathers

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Tue, 2014-06-24 06:09

One out of every three children in America —more than 24 million in total — live in a home without their biological father present, according to a 2012 White House Fatherhood Report. Roughly one out of every three Hispanic children and more than half of African-American children also live in homes without their biological fathers.

The presence and involvement of a child’s parents protect children from a number of vulnerabilities. More engaged fathers — whether living with or apart from their children — can help foster a child’s healthy physical, emotional, and social development. While evidence shows that children benefit most from the involvement of resident fathers, research also has highlighted the positive effect that nonresident fathers can have on their children’s lives.

Recognizing the importance of fathers in children’s physical, emotional, and social development, Shirley Jones, a program specialist in the Department of Education’s regional office in Chicago, partnered with the Detroit Area Dad’s PTA and the Detroit Public School system. Together, they organized the “Dads to Dads” forum at Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern, where 350 men, women, and young adults committed to a day of discussion on how to best support children in their communities.

National PTA President Otha Thornton, one of the speakers at the forum, challenged the parent participants to identify the barriers that prevent them from being more involved in their children’s education and lives. He also talked about finding ways to overcome these barriers and encouraged dads to develop visions for their kids’ futures.

Mentoring programs, support groups, and other resources – such as places of worship, school PTA’s, and local governments – were also presented as places where fathers might turn for support.

Panelist Rev. Dr. James Perkins spoke during the final session and stated, “Your sons and daughters will learn what’s important by what’s important to you.” He stressed that fathers can encourage their children by spending time with them, which will have a lasting impact.

Anna Leach is a confidential assistant for the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

Categories: Higher Education News

Corinthian’s Crisis Raises Questions on an Unprecedented Scale

Chronicle of Higher Education - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:56

Some campuses will be sold. Some may close. What’s next?

Categories: Higher Education News

Is Reporting Campus Sex Assaults to the Police Discouraged? a Senator Asks

Chronicle of Higher Education - Tue, 2014-06-24 02:56

The question was a central topic in the last of a series of discussions convened by Sen. Claire McCaskill, who plans legislation on sexual violence at colleges.

Categories: Higher Education News

College Value and Completion: “Righting the Balance on the Side of Students”

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Mon, 2014-06-23 14:18

Students discuss college affordability during a recent town hall. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

“Who thinks college is affordable?”

Secretary Duncan and new Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell posed that question to a packed room of college students and freshly-minted graduates at a recent town hall on college costs and access.

Almost no one raised a hand.

A college education is still the best investment students can make in their future. It is also a critical investment that we can make as a nation. But right now, this important rung on the ladder to opportunity is slipping out of reach for many low- and middle-income families in America.

That’s something President Obama is determined to change. Since taking office, the President has made key investments in education and advanced an ambitious agenda to combat rising college costs; to make college more affordable; to increase quality; and to improve educational outcomes. On June 9, 2014, the President signed a Presidential Memorandum that will allow an additional 5 million borrowers with federal student loans to cap their monthly payments at just 10 percent of their income.

But during the town hall meeting, the feeling in the room was clear: this country needs to do so much more, to ensure that students – regardless of their circumstances – have the information they need to make good choices and the financial support to pay for and complete their education.

The town hall was part of a series of events to encourage conversations and gain insights from the people most directly affected by the rising costs of college. Secretary Duncan and Under Secretary Mitchell were there with one purpose: to hear from students. This was an opportunity to listen to students’ stories, needs, and ideas.

One student panelist, Johnathan, said, “My mom always told me I could go to my dream college. Then when we started to look at the cost, we had to slow down and think again. It’s not something parents want to have to say: ‘Let’s see what we can afford. Let’s pick something lower on your list.”

Johnathan saved on expenses for his family by spending his freshman year at a lower-cost college before transferring to that dream school, Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Wendy, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania and daughter of immigrant parents, shared her mother’s response when she was asked if the family was saving money for Wendy’s college education. She quoted her mother, “Are you kidding me? I’ve been trying to survive in this country. You have to figure it out.”

Student after student took the microphone, eager to share experiences and challenges, and offer ideas about how the federal government, states, and individual colleges and universities could help ease the financial aid process for students and families. Student participants attended institutions coast-to-coast—from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, to the University of California at Berkeley.

Several students recommended community college as a strong option for securing the first two years of a 4-year degree at a reasonable cost. One explained, “I feel like there is a stigma about promoting community colleges; [but] I have been able to stay debt free until my senior year.” Still many others raised their hands when asked if they were working their way through school. Several students described the challenge of juggling studies and the need to keep their grades high with the demand to work, in order to keep their loan balances down. Others spoke about the realities of being first-generation Americans, with parents who value a college education, but who encounter cultural taboos about borrowing money to pay for it. Still others spoke about having parents who attended college abroad and were unsure about helping their kids navigate the U.S. higher education system.

The consistent message at the town hall was that with better information, students and families can make informed decisions about higher education, manage their loans and finances wisely, and not have to defer their dreams.

“I want to be clear,” Under Secretary Mitchell told the room of promising young people, “the balance has shifted in ways that are not fair to students and families. We need to be guided by righting that balance on the side of students.”

Robert Gomez is the director of higher education outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Categories: Higher Education News

Social Media Tips for Educators: Developing Innovative Engagement in Your Community

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Mon, 2014-06-23 07:31

We’ve developed social media tip sheets specifically to help state and local education agencies expand online engagement.

ED’s Reform Support Network (RSN) got feedback from state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) and found that more than 95 of these agencies use or plan on using Twitter or Facebook. Additionally, 8 in 10 are active or plan to be active on YouTube and more than half are either currently blogging or plan to blog in the near future.

The four tip sheets cover a variety of topics and include comprehensive information regarding key aspects of digital engagement that any educator can use.

The first tip sheet, released today, focuses on innovative engagement.

Thinking about new ways to present information to constituents is never easy, but it can be especially challenging for educators and administrators who are juggling the challenges of teaching, too.

This tip sheet showcases ways in which states are engaging with audiences in new and innovative ways, including using state chiefs to lead department social media efforts and using new and different social media platforms to reach key audiences including teachers.

During the next three weeks we will present more tip sheets that will highlight interesting and innovative aspects of digital communications within the education sphere. Next week, we’ll discuss ideas for building staff capacity in the social media arena.

Dorothy Amatucci is a digital engagement strategist at the U.S. Department of Education.

Categories: Higher Education News

Liability in the Lab: UCLA Case Sends a Signal to Universities

Chronicle of Higher Education - Mon, 2014-06-23 02:56

The lab's director avoided jail time, but experts say the precedent-setting case still adds to pressure on institutions to improve lab safety.

Categories: Higher Education News
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