The New York Times has a new education supplement, called Learning, and The Hechinger Report is collaborating with the Times to produce Bulletin Board, a collection of noteworthy ideas and trends in education that will appear on page 2 of the section, which will come out four times a year. The June issue’s theme was “Challenges in Higher Education.” Highlights from Bulletin Board follow.
In a New Land, Another Barrier
Estrella Rivas was 7 when her grandmother handed her and her little sister over to strangers in 2007. They crossed the border in the dark, fleeing El Salvador, to join their mother in the United States.
Estrella is one of more than 690,000 youngsters brought to this country illegally as children and temporarily granted the right to stay under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law. The Trump administration is trying to end DACA but has been blocked by the courts.
Now many DACA young people, including Estrella, are ready for college. And while the federal government grinds its gears, the fight over whether they should have college access has moved to individual states, where the center of gravity seems to be shifting toward increased access. But the price can be prohibitive. In New Jersey, where Estrella lives, it costs in-state commuter students $28,000 to attend Rutgers University; that’s nearly a year’s income for the average undocumented family in the state. And DACA students cannot use federal loans.
Estrella will graduate from high school this month with a 4.2 GPA, and although she was accepted at 17 colleges, with scholarships, she still wasn’t sure she could afford to go. But in May, New Jersey joined nine other states that allow DACA recipients to get the same state financial aid as other residents (only five states allowed this three years ago). Estrella has enrolled at Rutgers.
Not every state favors this trend. In May, seven states filed a federal lawsuit to eliminate DACA. Missouri legislators voted down a measure this spring to let DACA students pay in-state tuition. And Georgia outright bans DACA recipients from attending its top state universities. (In response, Freedom University in Atlanta now gives undocumented Georgians a tuition-free college education.)
The Presidents’ Immigration Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, formed last December, has grown to 356 university and college presidents and chancellors, from 28, committed to helping DACA students.
The Trump administration also has until July to convince a federal appeals judge that DACA should end. Otherwise, the administration will have to start accepting new applications. — Meredith Kolodner
A Hand Up From Foster Care
As the opioid crisis ravages communities across West Virginia, a college is recruiting some of its casualties — children who have been in foster care.
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Only about half of foster care children graduate from high school. Very few earn bachelor’s degrees (national figures are not available, but estimates range from 3 to 10 percent). The reasons are not mysterious — interrupted schooling creates academic gaps, while the trauma these children often experience produces social and emotional challenges. And if they do manage to scrape together money for college, where do they go during holiday breaks when the dorms close?
In West Virginia, KVC Health Systems, in partnership with BridgeValley Community and Technical College, will open a program this fall specifically for former foster care children. It will be called the Riverbend Center Supporting Higher Education, housed on a former college campus in rural Montgomery.
Riverbend will offer a residential hall that is open all year, a cafeteria where students can eat free and copious numbers of counselors, all managed by KVC Health Systems. BridgeValley will provide academic support, including a developmental “boot camp” in reading, math and basic study skills. Once students are ready for college work, they will attend classes with other BridgeValley students.
Students must work part time, but will not pay tuition. Existing government funds will be used to cover the $50,000 annual cost per student. The campus can house 500 students, but the program will begin with about 25 in the fall.
“This population is truly underserved in higher education,” said John Berry, vice president of student services at BridgeValley, “and we would love this to become a national model.” — Meredith Kolodner
The Changing Faces of Rhodes Scholars
Camille Borders has been a change agent at Washington University since she entered in 2014. Now she is making history.
“Have you seen ‘Hamilton?’” she said.
“I want to be in the room where it happens,” she continued, quoting the Broadway musical. “I want to be in those decision-making places, and to do that, I need to have certain kinds of experiences.”
Ms. Borders and her close friend and classmate Jasmine Brown are among 10 African-American Rhodes scholars this year, of 32, the most in Rhodes history. At Oxford, Ms. Borders plans to study the abolitionist movements in Britain and the United States.
She entered Washington University in St. Louis just weeks after an unarmed black man was killed by a white police officer in nearby Ferguson, and she became a leading campus activist for racial justice.
After Washington University was called out for being one of the least economically diverse elite universities, its students pushed for better racial representation. The provost, Holden Thorp, credits activists like Ms. Borders with prompting change. The coming fall’s freshmen class will be 12 percent African-American, up from 5 percent when Ms. Borders started; Latinos will increase to 8 percent from 6 percent.
Ms. Brown majored in neuroscience and will study the history of medicine at Oxford.
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“I want to make a positive impact within medicine, by helping people cure or cope with disease, particularly within underrepresented populations,” she said.
“I have so many people to say thank you to,” Ms. Borders said. “I’m excited to make them proud.” — Meredith Kolodner
No Laptop? Get One at the Vending Machine
Step aside, Snickers — this vending machine dispenses computers, not candy.
Surviving college without a laptop is not easy; most students are asked to submit homework, revise papers and follow course readings online. Faculty members at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan noticed that some students who couldn’t afford a laptop were struggling to keep up.
Giving computers to every student in need was deemed too costly. Instead, the college invested $35,000 in a vending machine that allows them to check out laptops free. Students swipe their ID cards, slide a laptop out of a slot and return it when they’re done.
From October, when the 12-laptop machine was installed, to April, the computers were checked out 530 times, even though the machine was tucked away in a fairly low-traffic area. College officials said about 57 percent of the students who used the laptops had federal Pell grants, which usually go to those with family incomes below $40,000.
When donors heard how successful the experiment had been, they pledged enough money to buy two more machines, which were scheduled to arrive in the fall.
“Some people thought, ‘oh no, that won’t work, they’re going to be stolen,’” said Kurt Meinders, director of information technology customer support at the college. “But we’ve had none of that, no stolen laptops, no problems at all.”
And Snickers can still lure students to vending machines elsewhere on campus, if they need a snack with their laptop. — Meredith Kolodner
Words to Live By at Graduation
Commencement season means commencement speakers. Here is a sampling of their messages.
Anita Hill, Rutgers University Camden Law School
“Uncertainty prevails only if it can make cowards of us all — and we can defeat uncertainty if we boldly stand for justice and fairness.”
Jimmy Carter, Liberty University
“Even now, some of us are still struggling to accept the fact that all people are equal in the eyes of God.”
Chance the Rapper, Dillard University
“We have to erase the fear and stigma behind eclipsing our heroes.”
Oprah Winfrey, University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
“You will become the new editorial gatekeepers, an ambitious army of truth seekers who will arm yourselves with the intelligence, with the insight and with the facts necessary to strike down deceit.”
Sérgio Moro, University of Notre Dame
“Never surrender to the evils of corruption or despair. Above all, there is no victory if along the path you lose your soul.”
Rex W. Tillerson, Virginia Military Institute
“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth — even on what may seem to be the most trivial of matters — we go wobbly on America.”
— Compiled by Emily Baumgaertner for The New York Times