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Why Wisconsin Kids Figure Out Their Futures Early

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/09/2022 - 6:00pm in

This story was originally published by The 74 Million. It is part of the SoJo Exchange from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

In June, Connor Opdahl graduated high school in a remote, rural area of Wisconsin with the familiar gray clouds facing seniors nationwide: a looming possible recession, political and racial tensions and a rebound of Covid-19.

But Opdahl has a plan.

While he graduated with a 4.12 GPA, he balks at the cost of a four-year college he views as unnecessary to his career objectives and a likely source of massive debt. He’s also a highly athletic, outdoors kind of guy who does not fancy being chained to a desk.

So this month he starts a nine month technical training program at Blackhawk Technical College to become a utility power lineworker.

The cost: a mere $7,000.

But more importantly, he’ll join a stable profession that pays more than $50,000 per year for new entrants and $78,000 for seasoned professionals with five-years experience.

Connor Opdahl in the welding/manufacturing shop at Milton High School, where students can take classes that offer dual credits with nearby Blackhawk Technical College. Credit: Amy Kenyon / Milton High School

Opdahl’s confidence in no small part reflects the four years of career development work he put in through his academic career plan.

The plans, which go by many other names, refer to both personalized career and academic development activities as well as the portfolio created as each learner advances through school and transitions into the workforce, according to a report released by Advance CTE, a national association of state career technical education educators and administrators.

Opdahl’s journey

Since 2017, every student in grades six through 12 in Wisconsin has been required to participate in an academic career plan. Opdahl started as an eighth grader and continued throughout his four years at Milton High School.

During that time, he’s participated in job fairs and field trips to learn about trades and completed a youth apprenticeship at a golf course. A union representative on the links suggested he consider a career as an electrical lineman. In his sophomore year, Opdahl wrote an essay evaluating three career options, including one as a power lineworker. He then conducted research and designed a postsecondary plan during his junior year. His school’s Xello career technology platform linked him to information about electrical power-line installers and repairers, including a job description, labor market projections and salary.

As a senior, he gave a presentation to three adults on the value of his chosen profession. But just in case, he also recently began a plumbing apprenticeship program in the event his dream of being a lineworker runs into unexpected headwinds. Plumbing, he notes, is another high-income, rock steady career choice.

“The process helped me a lot, especially the essay, because I got to tour Blackhawk and that helped me know what classes I needed to line up in college,” Opdahl said. “I took dual credit classes in senior year so that those would qualify and I wouldn’t have to take them at Blackhawk, which saves time and money. ”

The rise of academic career plans

Figuring out what to do in life and how to get there is not easy for anyone. For teenagers, confronting raging hormones in addition to mastering academics, it can be especially challenging. Increasingly, high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools are turning to academic career plans to help students start thinking about their future paths earlier and more effectively.

Scott Solberg, vice president of research for the Coalition for Career Development Center and a professor at Boston University, said the plans help young people see “the purpose and meaning of what they’re learning” by discovering it on their own.

“When youth realize and become aware of the trajectories they are creating, everything changes,” he said. “When academic career plans are done well — and that is not always the case — youth are transformed.”

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Career conversations are a core component. A 2017 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development study found that future wage earnings at age 26 increase 0.8 percent for each meaningful career conversation students experience in middle and high school, with the increased earnings rising to 1.6 percent for each conversation rated “very useful.”

“Implementation of [academic career plans] in Denver Public Schools has led to increased attendance, GPAs, test scores and graduation rates, and decreases in dropout and behavior challenges,” said Samantha Haviland, the district’s executive director of career development and student supports. “So it’s had a real, real positive impact on a lot of things students have a hard time with.”

Academic career plans are not new. At least 38 states have implemented them, including 21 that require the plans, according to the Advance CTE report. In 2020-21, for example, Colorado made academic career plan participation mandatory for graduation, a step adopted by Oklahoma in 2019-20.

Starting in kindergarten

Academic career plans are also starting earlier.

Michele Walker, a teacher at Arkansas Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado, has developed a detailed academic career plan curriculum that begins in kindergarten.

Second graders, for example, read an illustrated account of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” raising issues of self-management, persistence and goal setting, not to mention empathy and respect for others.

With younger students, part of the purpose is linking student aspirations to potential careers, said Michele Corey, a second grade teacher at the school. “At the beginning of the year, we really talked to the kids about what their interests were,” Corey said. “One girl was like, ‘My dad has cancer and I want to know how to get rid of germs.’ And so I was telling her, ‘Well, if you want to learn about viruses, you could be a virologist.’ And she’s like, ‘That’s what I want to be.’”

In some cases, academic career plans are linked to socioeconomic goals for an entire region. In northeastern Colorado, for example, plans are tied to hopes that more high school students will stay put in small towns that are losing graduates to large metropolitan areas with more opportunities.

“I think we want to keep our people in northeast Colorado — we feel it’s a great place to be,” said Mike Bowers, superintendent of Lone Star School District, a school system with a robust program that monitors the career readiness progress of its 128 students. While activities help students explore all their options, including those that might take them away from home, his school goes the extra mile to keep them in Colorado.

The substance of the plans varies by school.

Some feature competency training in which students receive credit for skills such as time management, personal finance and professional demeanor. Since 2020-21, all students in fifth through 12th grades at Lone Star have been required to participate in “Adulting 101,” designed to emphasize practical skills from filling out tax forms to fixing a car.

Beyond high school

And increasingly, the plans follow students beyond high school graduation.

Iowa took a major step in this direction in August 2021 when it deployed 21 College and Career Transition Counselors across the state. Community colleges formed partnerships with local high schools where they provided counselors to help high school students bridge the gap to college, said Pete Drury, college and career transition counselor at Marshalltown Community College.

Donavan Happe, who earned a certificate in welding while attending high school, at the Welding Lab at Marshalltown Community College. Credit: Michele Frost / Marshalltown Community College

That enabled Drury to help Donavan Happe, a recent graduate from East Marshall High School who had already completed a welding certificate and plans to pursue an advanced manufacturing degree at the college.

Drury served as Happe’s professional school counselor at East Marshall in grades four through eight. In 8th grade, Drury taught a class where students explored future careers.

It was a decisive experience, Happe said: “I had been thinking I was going to be an engineer, but when I saw how much math was involved, I began to look at other options. A career in welding and manufacturing, which will also allow me to be my own boss, began to appeal to me.”

“That’s one of the things that career projects in eighth grade can accomplish,” Drury added. “I’ve had lots of kids that begin to dig into a career that they are interested in and realize that it is not the right fit for them: They didn’t realize how many years of school it involved or what level of math, science or reading they need to master. I’d much rather be able to have those conversations early instead of after they graduate.”

Still, achieving career readiness success is also a measure of student grit. Mercedes Calderon just graduated from high school and plans to attend Muscatine Community College in Iowa in the fall to begin prerequisites to become a nurse. When Covid shut down normal career shadowing activities at her high school, she took the initiative and reached out to an aunt who is a nurse to help her explore the field.

Calderon proceeded to participate in a senior year Healthcare Academy in which she split her year between high school and community college. She completed educational requirements to achieve a certificate as a nursing assistant, with all tuition paid for by the high school.

Calderon said Covid-19 profoundly affected her planned career choice.

“I chose nursing because I want something that’s always going to be there. There’s always going to be sick people, and there’s always going to be people that need help,” she said. “And it pays decently.”

The post Why Wisconsin Kids Figure Out Their Futures Early appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Talent-Hungry Companies Are Teaming Up With Historically Black Colleges

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 6:00pm in

This story was originally published by The Hechinger Report. 

As it did in workplaces worldwide, the killing of George Floyd — just a few miles from its offices in Minneapolis — led to deep introspection about diversity and fairness at the Solve advertising agency.

The company was more than 80 percent white, and part of an industry in which Black and Hispanic employees are drastically underrepresented compared to their proportions of the population.

“It obviously pushed the entire industry to reflect, ‘Are we doing enough?’” said Andrew Pautz, a partner in the firm and its director of business development. “And the answer was really no.”

To respond, Solve looked 1,100 miles away, to Baltimore. That’s where it found a historically Black university, or HBCU — Morgan State University — that was willing to team up to create an entry-level course to introduce its students to careers in advertising.

“Advertising isn’t on the radar of diverse candidates when it really counts, when they’re trying to find a career to engage in,” Pautz said. So he and his colleagues asked: “Where is there a high concentration of diverse students? And that’s what brought us to HBCUs.”

It’s not only Solve that has come to this conclusion. So have some of the nation’s largest employers, who are descending on HBCUs to recruit the workers they need to meet diversity promises or expanding collaborations that already existed — often underwriting courses and programs and the technology needed to provide them.

These employers include Google, IBM, Northrop Grumman, Novartis, NBCUniversal, the airlines United, Delta and Southwest, and even the NFL, which teamed up last month with four historically Black medical schools to boost the number of Black team physicians and medical professionals.

“At many HBCUs, the phones have been ringing off the hook,” said David Marshall, professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Communication at Morgan State. “Given that these institutions are producing some of the highest numbers in terms of Black and brown students in some professions, it’s a natural development to come to where the students are.”

About one in 11 Black college students are enrolled in the nation’s 101 HBCUs, which produce more than a quarter of Black graduates with degrees in math, biology and the physical sciences, the National Science Foundation reports, and 50 percent of Black lawyers, 40 percent of Black engineers and 12.5 percent of Black CEOs, according to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

“People who have attended HBCUs, we know the value,” said Cheyenne Boyce, a graduate of historically Black Spelman College and senior manager in the Education Partner Program at the software developer and marketing company HubSpot, which also teams up with HBCUs to find interns and employees. “We’ve always known that. But it does help to have additional external validation.”

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No one tracks how many companies are teaming up with HBCUs to find workers. But many such affiliations have been announced over the last two years. There’s been “a significant uptick,” said Marshall, at Morgan State. “It’s been deeper over the last couple of years,” said Lydia Logan, vice president for global education and workforce development and corporate social responsibility at IBM. Added Yeneneh Ketema, university relations diversity program lead at Northrop Grumman: “From what we’ve heard from our campus contacts, yes, there are a lot more companies coming there.”

This expanding pipeline to jobs with top employers could attract more students to HBCUs, whose enrollment overall declined by 15 percent in the 10 years ending 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Education — although about a third of the schools have seen a rebound in response to racist incidents at predominantly white institutions, the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions reports.

“Having companies really be willing to make investments, it benefits the students. It’s great for the parents. It’s great for the universities,” Boyce said.

For HBCU students who are lower-income or the first in their families to go to college, closer relationships with corporate recruiters and mentors also could help offset the advantage long enjoyed by wealthier counterparts who can network their way to jobs.

“I as a rich white kid might have, not just the relationships to get into the door, but also the perspective to know that working at a bank doesn’t just mean being a teller,” said Jeffrey Moss, founder and CEO of Parker Dewey, which helps employers and colleges arrange short-term internships. “Or maybe if my mom or dad works at [the management consulting firm] McKinsey, I could get a job there.

“What’s exciting to see coming out of the HBCUs right now are these opportunities to build real relationships,” Moss said.

That’s because many employers are investing more than an occasional campus recruiting visit. They’re showering HBCUs with technology and other support, mentors and money to help develop talent.

“The old model is, you bring a fancy table to the career fair and you give out brochures,” Marshall said. “The second tier is that there have always been occasional internships. The shift now is looking for more meaningful relationships.”

IBM in May announced that it would underwrite new cybersecurity centers at six HBCUs: Morgan State, Xavier, North Carolina A&T State, South Carolina State, Clark Atlanta and Louisiana’s Southern University System.

In addition to supplying academic content, the company will furnish experts to conduct guest lectures and even simulated hacking events.

“This is our next new big thing with HBCUs,” said Logan, at IBM, which already had a program to recruit students from historically Black schools.

“We’ve had a long commitment to diversity. For other companies it’s newer. For everyone, it’s gotten deeper over the last couple of years,” Logan said.

There’s not only now a social imperative for these companies, but an economic one: a huge demand for workers — not just in cybersecurity, but in other fields that require education in science, technology, engineering and math.

“We have a talent shortage,” Logan said. And “if you’re looking for diverse talent in STEM, it’s a natural fit to recruit from HBCUs.”

Consumers and activists are also pressuring employers to live up to promises that they will diversify their workforces.

“Especially for those companies that are consumer brands, their customers are saying that they want to see something happen,” Marshall said.

In some industries, such expectations can have an immediate and tangible effect on the bottom line. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say their perception of a brand’s diversity through its advertising affects whether they will patronize it, for example, according to a survey by the marketing analytics firm Marketing Charts. More than half of Black respondents said they won’t do business with a company that doesn’t represent Black people in its ads.

“Whether it’s about race or religion or gender, perspective is everything in advertising,” said Pautz, of Solve, whose clients include True Value, American Standard and Rust-oleum. Having a diverse workforce can broaden a company’s perspective, he said. “We have to understand how people think. It’s all about getting into a target audience’s shoes.”

Google’s Grow with Google HBCU Career Readiness Program provides digital education and funding to help expand the pipeline of Black tech workers, who represent only 4.4 percent of Google employees in the United States, even though 13.4 percent of the U.S. population is Black. Last year — facing criticism, including from one of its own former diversity recruiters that it previously didn’t seriously consider Black engineers from HBCUs for jobs — the company’s CEO met with the presidents of five HBCUs. Google has now added a new program called Pathways to Tech to provide those universities with technology resources.

To recruit new airline pilots, fewer than four percent of whom are Black and another 14,500 of whom the Bureau of Labor Statistics says will be needed each year through at least the end of this decade, United Airlines has teamed up with historically Black Delaware State University, Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina and Hampton University in Virginia. Delta has formed a partnership with Hampton, too, and Southwest with Texas Southern University in Houston.

The NFL announced last month that it would offer month-long clinical rotations to students from the historically Black Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College and Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science as a way to increase diversity among NFL physicians, only 5 percent of whom are Black.

“It’s really important for us to have that pipeline” from HBCUs, said Ketema, at Northrop Grumman, which also has collaborations with HBCUs and this fall will hold its fourth annual “HBCU Invitational,” during which it invites students to interview for jobs and participate in workshops and other activities.

It’s important that employers give more than lip service to these partnerships, Ketema’s colleague, Chris Carlson, Northrop’s director of university recruiting, said.

“One thing that we all know from working with HBCUs is the students can truly tell if a company is there to check a box — just showing up at a career fair to collect resumes — or if the company is in it with a school,” Carlson said.

Marshall agreed that the onus is on employers to live up to their diversity goals.

“This is not a story about HBCUs,” he said. “It’s about companies and corporations that are under increased pressure from their stakeholders, their shareholders, their customers saying, ‘You can no longer sit on the sidelines. You’ve got to do something.’ ”

“I don’t think the burden is on the HBCU side. I think the burden is on the corporations that suddenly woke up and found Jesus.”

In the meantime, HBCUs are indisputably enjoying a surge of employer interest.

“It’s great for HBCUs to get this attention,” said IBM’s Logan. “For a long time I think they were overlooked and now they’re getting the recognition they’ve always deserved.”

The post Talent-Hungry Companies Are Teaming Up With Historically Black Colleges appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

No College? No Problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

At the age of 17 Latisha Carter became a single mother, putting her hopes of going to college firmly on the backburner. But she was determined to work. Three years later, after having another child, Carter became a nursing assistant, taking after her mother and aunt.

Yet she couldn’t shake her dreams of making it in corporate America.

“I felt like I disappointed my mom,” says Atlanta-based Carter. “I was the youngest kid, then I ended up having kids. I wanted to prove to everyone that I am not a disappointment.”

Latisha Carter

Buoyed by the extensive training on offer, Carter secured a call center role at software company NCR. This built up her industry experience to land a customer service role at software giant Sage in 2000. Carter’s imagined corporate success story was finally a reality and over the next 20 years she catapulted up the ranks to director level, eventually landing a senior role at accounting tech company Xero — all without a college degree.

As a director in corporate America with no university on her resumé, Carter is less of an anomaly than you might think. A recent Harvard Business Review report analyzed more than 51 million jobs posted between 2017 and 2020, and found a marked decrease in the number of employers requesting diplomas. 

This shift towards skills- and attributes-based hiring is gaining momentum in the U.S., making hiring at a growing number of companies more about what you can do than where you went to college. As student debt spirals upward and businesses struggle to find enough workers, the positive impact of skills-based hiring could be enormous for disadvantaged groups, companies and the economy as a whole. 

Skills outweigh diplomas

Job search engine Adzuna recently reviewed over 127,000 resumés uploaded to its site since January 2021. Looking across more than 2,700 job titles to assess the average market value of jobseekers with a degree compared to those without, it found that those without a degree achieved higher salaries than those with a degree in fields like IT, construction safety and chemistry, emphasizing the value of experience over education.

Paul Lewis, Adzuna’s chief customer officer, believes the change is welcome news for those who can’t shoulder the cost of attending college.

“A company that puts emphasis on skills over formal credentials will create a better foundation and culture of values, and a more diverse, well-rounded set of employees that will become a competitive advantage down the line,” says Lewis.

This is a far cry from the mentality that prevailed when Carter was starting out. Back then, she says, not having a degree in a corporate role actively held her back and she felt she had to work significantly harder than her peers to prove herself.

“Specifically, there was a time that a leader had to go to bat for me because I did not have a degree,” she says. “I honestly believe that broke a barrier across the company because he stood up for me to say I had proven myself and fought to ensure the pay was equal or better to someone with a degree. With his belief in me and my belief in myself, I was almost unstoppable after that.”

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One of the most significant potential benefits of companies focusing hiring policies around skills rather than educational attainment is the potential it has to close the racial wealth gap.

OneTen is an organization which partners with companies to put one million Black Americans without college degrees into what it calls “family sustaining” careers — those paying $60,000 plus — over the next 10 years. Its goal is to close the unemployment gap between white and Black workers, and see companies make good on their diversity and equality policies.

According to OneTen, 76 percent of Black adults in America don’t have a college degree yet 79 percent of “family sustaining” jobs still require one, resulting in a $143,000 average net wealth difference between white and Black families. Since OneTen launched in 2020 it has helped facilitate over 17,000 hires of self-identifying Black Americans without four-year degrees into “family sustaining” roles across 70 companies.

To reach its goal of one million hires, chief executive Maurice Jones wants the number of partner companies to increase fivefold over the next three years.

“[The requirement for degrees when hiring] is a systemic barrier to folks earning their way into the middle-class American dream, all based on a credential that may have no relevance compared with the skills, attitude and aptitude you bring to a job,” he says.

“You cannot address the wealth gap in our country, which in America largely breaks down along lines of race and place, unless access to quality jobs for more folks is part of the solution. This whole skills-first movement is firmly about addressing the racial wealth gap in this country. If that’s not a significant part of your solution, you don’t have a solution.”

Carter’s employer Xero is certainly seeing its skills-based hiring approach pay off in terms of creating a more diverse company. In the second half of 2021, the company saw a seven percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity amongst new hires in the U.S. compared with the first half of that year, according to Jana Galbraith, the company’s executive general manager for people experience partnering. In contrast, she says, “historically, hiring based on degree exclusively has perpetuated discrimination.”

And, as in Carter’s case, companies need to be in a position to benefit from people’s determination and tenacity to chase their dreams, whether they have a degree or not.

“When you find someone who’s passionate about the work they’re going to be doing, you can bet they’re going to be a great colleague,” says Carter. “If we remove the barrier of ‘where did you go to school?’ that creates more opportunities for people who may have taken a non-traditional route.”

The post No College? No Problem appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The Texas University That Charges Low-Income Students Precisely Zero

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

This story was originally published by Washington Monthly. It is part of the SoJo Exchange from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

In a world of skyrocketing college tuition and spiraling student debt, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is resolutely affordable.

Located in Edinburg, Texas, an hour from the U.S.-Mexico border, UTRGV is a new school formed in 2013 from a merger of new campuses and legacy institutions. It enrolls a student body that is more than 90 percent Hispanic and heavily first-generation. The school’s mascot is the workingman Vaquero, Spanish for “cowboy” or “cattle driver,” who dons full ranching attire, including gloves, scarf and boots. Designed by students, the mascot’s costume is full of subtle messaging, like blue-stitching on the vaquero’s boots to symbolize the Rio Grande river joining Mexico and the U.S.

More than 60 percent of students at UTRGV have incomes low enough to qualify for Pell grants. Yet, says President Guy Bailey, “Over half of our students who are undergraduates don’t pay any tuition or fees. Most of our students who qualify for Pell grants pay nothing.”

In addition to Pell, the state-funded TEXAS grant provides up to $5,195 per semester to in-state students attending Texas public universities. UTRGV closes the gap with its own Tuition Advantage program, which covers remaining tuition and fees for families with incomes up to $100,000 (a cap set to rise this year and one met by few families in this poor region). The school guarantees tuition levels for four years, so there’s no “surprise billing.” In 2019-20, the average net cost to attend was $917 — less than 12 percent of the $7,907 price tag for flagship UT-Austin.

“With first-generation low-income students, you have to start with finance,” says Bailey, who was himself a first-generation student. “A lot of kids don’t graduate because they just run out of money.”


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The press tends to focus on the failures of higher education, including especially the low graduation rates, poor outcomes and massive debts at schools with large numbers of low-income enrollees. Yet hundreds of post-secondary schools — like UTRGV — are doing right by their students, providing a quality education at a reasonable price. Institutions like these, the majority of which are regional public colleges and minority-serving institutions, are also addressing income inequality by creating economic opportunity, as a new report from the think tank Third Way concludes.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, UTRGV ranks among the nation’s top five schools for promoting economic mobility. The four others are all in California and Texas, with sizable Hispanic enrollments:  California State University-Los AngelesCalifornia State University-Dominguez HillsTexas A&M and California State University-Bakersfield. (All of these schools also rank highly in Washington Monthly’s College Guide, which eschews prestige-based metrics in favor of economic mobility and national service.)

Third Way’s report, authored by Senior Fellow Michael Itzkowitz, ranked the nation’s four-year colleges based on the proportion of students receiving Pell grants, the cost of attendance and students’ expected earnings after graduation. What emerged was a list of institutions that both enrolled high numbers of low- and moderate-income students and provided them a good return on their investment. What might be surprising, says Itkowitz, is how poorly some of the nation’s best-known colleges perform on this measure. Harvard, for instance, ranks 847, while Stanford ranks 548. Many state flagships also rank poorly; the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, is 701st for economic mobility, while the University of Michigan is at 535. (UT-Austin ranks 347.)

“While the fortunate few who get into these institutions are very, very likely to receive a strong economic return, there’s just such a limited number of low- and moderate-income students who attend these institutions in the first place,” says Itzkowitz. At Harvard, for instance, just 11.6 percent of undergraduate students are Pell recipients, as are only 16.7 percent of students at Stanford.

The Cal State schools atop Third Way’s rankings, on the other hand, serve majorities and super-majorities of Pell students. In fact, says Itzkowitz, the top ten schools in his analysis enrolled more than 95,000 Pell students in 2019-20 — more than six times the total enrolled by the nation’s most rejective (i.e., “selective”) institutions. “While it’s common to see your private elite Ivy-League schools mentioned in news stories, it’s other schools that are actually delivering on the promise [of economic mobility] for exponentially more students,” says Itzkowitz.

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions also dominate Third Way’s rankings, which Itzkowitz attributes to these schools enrolling large numbers of low-income students and, in some states, benefiting from generous state funding.

North Carolina’s Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) — the top-ranked HBCU in Itzkowitz’s analysis — is one of three schools designated under the state’s tuition subsidy program, NC Promise. In-state students attending NC Promise colleges pay just $500 in tuition per semester, while out-of-state students pay $2,500. In contrast, in-state tuition at the flagship UNC-Chapel Hill runs $7,019 and $34,882 for out-of-state tuition.

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Affordability is, however, only part of the equation. The top-ranked schools in the Third Way report also excel in helping their graduates land well-paying jobs, which university leaders attribute to their schools’ strong ties to their communities and a deep understanding of their students’ needs. UTRGV President Guy Bailey, for instance, says his students receive extensive academic advising services (often from former first-generation students) and access to work opportunities on campus. (“If you can work on campus rather than going to McDonald’s or Walmart or something like that, we can work with you better to ensure that you can get your classes and work done,” Bailey says.) As one result, more than 80 percent of first-year students return for their second year, putting UTRGV near the top in the University of Texas system for student retention.

ECSU, meanwhile, works with local, regional and national employers, so students have a pipeline into jobs the minute they graduate. For example, the school’s aviation science program, which is unique in the state, entered a partnership with United Airlines in 2020 that has already placed multiple graduates. “They’re not just looking for my flight students,” Chancellor Karrie Dixon told New America Foundation’s Kevin Carey at an event last October. “They’re looking for students in accounting and finance and business. … They’re looking at the entire operation at United Airlines and having our students have opportunities for employment.”

The presence of schools like UTRGV and ECSU is great news for higher education and lower-income students. “There are a lot of institutions that aren’t featured in mainstream media that are serving students extremely well,” says Third Way’s Itzkowitz.

On the other hand, the continued dominance of a handful of exclusionary schools in popular college rankings and in Washington policymaking is worrisome. Affordable, high-quality schools might not continue to get the resources they need to sustain their work. Students enamored of brand-name schools might overlook the excellent but unsung institutions in their own backyards, and other institutions might miss valuable lessons about how to improve their practices. Ideologically driven battles over the admissions criteria and campus culture of elite schools obscure the bigger issues the majority of America’s students need to get ahead. Far too many schools that serve low-income and first-generation students aren’t like UTRGV or ECSU. At nearly a third of the nation’s colleges, more than half of students end up earning less than a high school graduate, according to a new report from the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce.

But the tide could be turning. In addition to alternative rankings like the ones produced by Washington Monthly and Third Way, newly announced Carnegie Classifications for higher education institutions will also reflect schools’ performance on social and economic mobility. Measuring what matters could ultimately improve everyone’s game and bring about badly needed reform.

“American higher education needs to restructure itself, understanding that its past is not going to be its future,” says UTRGV President Guy Bailey. “We have to rethink what we do, and I think you start with students and what they need.”

The post The Texas University That Charges Low-Income Students Precisely Zero appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The Guarantee That Gets More Low-Income Students into College

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 6:00pm in

This story about free tuition was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

What is the best way to help more bright low-income students attend elite colleges?

Typically, we tell these prospective college students to fill out forms to see how much financial aid they can get. But families don’t learn about their final costs until after they apply, answer more than 100 questions about their family’s finances and furnish verifying documents. That appears to create a persistent obstacle. Researchers have consistently found that some high-achieving high school students — the ones with straight As and SAT scores above 1200 — don’t bother to apply to top colleges despite the likelihood of admission and a free ride.

A 2017 study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty found that many elite colleges, including the majority of the Ivy League, enroll more students from the top one percent than the bottom 60 percent. At the University of Michigan, the state’s prestigious flagship, it’s not as extreme, but nine percent of undergraduates came from families that made more than $630,000 compared with 16.5 percent of students from families that make under $65,000.

To address this, the university staged an experiment in 2019 involving 1,800 high school students. All of them qualified for free or reduced price lunch; that’s an annual income below $48,000 for a family of four. Their grades were As and their average SAT score was 1270, which put them in the top 15 percent of all test takers in the country. Half of them lived in rural areas and 80 percent were white. (Other programs were successfully recruiting high-achieving students in metro areas and the university was seeking to improve its reach in rural regions of the state.)

The university randomly mailed 1,200 of these students one of two invitations to apply. One offered them a full “HAIL” scholarship — an upfront guarantee of zero tuition if the student was admitted — without having to fill out any financial aid forms. The other half received a letter encouraging them to apply, explaining that they would qualify for free tuition if their families made below $65,000 and had less than $50,000 in assets. The remaining 600 students didn’t receive anything special in the mail, but were tracked as a comparison control group.

The clear winner was the upfront guarantee of zero tuition. Almost two thirds, or 63 percent of the 600 students who received this envelope, applied to the University of Michigan. About 200 of these students were admitted and 150 students, roughly a quarter of them, subsequently enrolled in 2020. Fewer than half of the students who got the second invitation, telling them they would probably qualify for free tuition, applied. And only 18 percent of these students enrolled — about the same enrollment rate as students in the control group who didn’t receive any encouraging letter in the mail. The upfront guarantee led to a nine percentage point improvement in the rate at which low-income students enrolled in the University of Michigan.

Susan Dynarski, an economist who helped design and conduct the experiment at the University of Michigan and is now a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, said the study demonstrates the psychological power of “certainty.” People are more willing to try something when they know the final cost ahead of time.  No one wants to spend a lot of time filling out forms for an unknown result.

“This is not unusual behavior,” said Dynarski. “If an employer offered you a salary or stock options of the same expected value, which would you pick? Pretty much everyone values certainty a lot.”

The paper about this study, The Power of Certainty: Experimental Evidence on the Effective Design of Free Tuition Programs, conducted by a team of five researchers at the University of Michigan, hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal and may still be revised. A draft was circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research in March 2022.

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As a response to lawmakers who think it’s too expensive to give free tuition to all, Dynarski advocates for free tuition for low-income students. She points out that they would likely receive this aid anyway after filling out financial aid forms.

The free tuition program costs the university and taxpayers more in total because it’s actually luring more low-income students to the University of Michigan. “It costs more to enroll a low income student than a high income student,” said Dynarski. ”If the goal is to enroll more low income students, it will cost more.”

Public universities could target low-income students by relying on other social programs, from free or reduced-price school lunch to food assistance and Medicaid, that have already verified a family’s income.

The downside to making financial aid forms optional, however, is that many of these social programs look at income only, not assets. In 2017 the University of Michigan made a pledge, which it dubbed “Go Blue,” to give free tuition to students whose families make under $65,000 and have less than $50,000 in assets. However, more than a third of families with annual incomes below $65,000 in Michigan have greater assets because of rising home prices. Some students, whose families own homes, would receive more financial aid under the upfront HAIL scholarship guarantee than they would otherwise.

Surprisingly, nearly all the students who received the upfront guarantee of free tuition still filled out federal financial aid forms, and they filled them out sooner than students who didn’t receive the free tuition guarantee. Dynarski suspects they were more motivated to see how much extra aid they could get, such as federal Pell grants, to offset additional room and board costs.

The University of Michigan first began experimenting with free tuition guarantees in 2015, creating a HAIL scholarship for high-achieving low-income high school seniors.  A 2021 study found that the scholarship offer was even more effective when it was first introduced and randomly offered to low income students in 2015 and 2016. It increased the rate of applications from low income students to 68 percent compared with control-group students, of which only 26 percent applied. Twenty seven percent of students who received the scholarship offer subsequently enrolled compared with 12 percent of low-income students who didn’t receive it. What’s changed between then and the 2019 experiment, according to Dynarski, is that low-income families are becoming more aware that there is a lot of financial aid available and that they won’t have to pay the full sticker price. As more students in the comparison control group apply, get in and enroll, the benefit of the upfront guarantee is less dramatic — a nine percentage point increase in enrollment instead of a 15 percentage point increase — but it is still large.

After the University of Michigan introduced the 2017 free tuition pledge for low-income families, some university administrators questioned whether the two programs were redundant and wondered if the HAIL scholarship should be eliminated. This study is evidence, however, that the upfront guarantee scholarship structure is more effective at increasing low-income enrollment.

Many elite institutions, from Harvard to Stanford, are becoming more vocal about offering free tuition to low-income students. But they’re structured more like the Go Blue program, telling low-income families that they’re likely to pay no tuition after filling out paperwork. This study suggests that these types of “free tuition” announcements may not do much to improve low-income enrollment. The details matter.

The post The Guarantee That Gets More Low-Income Students into College appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Cartoon: How to fund grad student workers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/04/2022 - 9:50pm in

One of several unionization efforts in the US right now is the movement to organize graduate student workers at universities. These laborers, who teach college classes and perform research that lends prestige to their institutions, tend to be paid appallingly low wages. The poverty-level paychecks are all the more unethical when you consider how university endowments have ballooned with the stock market in recent years, with many worth billions. Meanwhile, housing prices in college towns have surged, leaving student workers in a terrible predicament. This recent Guardian article provides further details.

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