Diversity…Kids Need it Too! Author: Marcia Page

Have you ever looked around the room at a group of your friends and noticed that you all have a lot in common? I am not referring to how you look, though you and your friends may resemble, in this instance I am talking about the similarities in the way you see the world, the values you share, your backgrounds and shared experiences. According to research, this is not by coincidence; we are hard-wired to desire like-minded companions. In fact, the research goes on to say that “similarity is very useful, and people are attracted to it most of the time”. If we think about it, this is not really a surprise. We tend to be more comfortable, more trusting, and have more in common with those just like us.

The problem with this sort of thinking and conformity is that every time we limit our exposure, we lose the opportunity to stretch and grow. Whether you have the chance to meet someone from another ethnic group, someone far richer or poorer than you are, do it. The upside potential is huge. Embrace the idea; talking with others exposes us to differing points of view and cultural nuances.

Question the hypothesis about the value of diversity if you will, but having a broader sense of the world around, seeing the same problems from several points of view, understanding how other cultures and different economic strata process information and make decisions, is enriching. On the surface, my comments here may strike you as social commentary or an updated line from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. In part, you would be correct. Adding a little diversity to your life would probably improve your social life or at least infuse a little excitement (smiles). However, the real reason for advocating for diversity is directly related to helping our students prepare for success in a global economy.

In truth, diversity is all around; it is the norm. Those in the workforce now know that diversity is everywhere and those able to collaborate across racial, cultural and socioeconomic boundaries will be poised to lead America to our next, best years.

Ready for College? So Much To Do, So Little Time!

Welcome back, it’s the beginning of a great new school year and I hope you got your rest, because we have work to do!

By now, you have already started the new school year off with a bang…shopping tax-free weekend for new school clothes and supplies–check. The first days of school was great, getting to renew relationships and see your friends after the summer break – check.  Now you are back in the groove and ready for a successful year of accomplishment–right?

The old adage that you start getting ready to apply for college and financial aid in the middle of your senior year is officially outdated, passé, kaput, in other words…old news. Beginning October 1, 2016 (yes, just a few short weeks from now), you can begin applying for Federal Government financial aid funds. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) program has an entirely new timetable.

For those planning to attend college beginning as early as July 2017, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The rules the Feds have in place are reasonable. They realize that you cannot have your 2016 taxes completed as early as the beginning of the application period so they have rewritten the rules allowing applicants to use 2015 tax year information when applying for financial aid for the 2017-2018 school year, this is very good news. Here is a summary of key dates related to FAFSA grant monies:

If you plan to attend college from: Submit the FAFSA Application dated You can submit the FAFSA form during this time period Use income and tax information from this tax year
July 1, 2017 –

June 30, 2018

2017-2018 October 1, 2016 –

June 30, 2018

2015
July 1, 2018 –

June 30, 2019

2018-2019 October 1, 2017 –

June 30, 2019

2016

Need a Money Mentor to help navigate the financial aid system, check out NextGenVest.com.

In addition to filing for Federal financial aid, you have a few more due dates to plan for and consider; let me spur your memory.

  1. We discussed the FAFSA, but do not forget the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA). Apply for one or the other, but do not miss your chance to receive financial aid from the US government. You deserve your shot at the American dream and the financial assistance to make your dreams reality.
  2. If you have already taken the SAT® or ACT and you are happy with your scores, you are in great shape. If not, schedule your time to retake those exams now. The in school exams for Dallas ISD will be in the spring of 2017. For more information on entrance test dates and fees, click here .
  3. Last, but not least, one of the most important decisions you will make is where you will attend college. Narrow your list of options and begin working on your college applications. If you need help thinking through how to position your achievements and highlight your best characteristics, ask for help. Your parents may be a good resource, but if not go to your Education is Freedom Advisor who is at your campus every day to help you. You have everything to gain.

There are resources, services and tips all around to help you get through this busy period, so do not let your “To Do” list scare you. Get a simple calendar to hang on your wall as an ever-present reminder; mark out key dates and set aside time to work toward the accomplishment your goals.

This really is the beginning of the rest of your life, invest the time now to ensure your own success!

 

 

Big Dollars Count, Small Dollars Matter!

Ever wonder why talented students with great financial aid packages don’t finish college? Income inequality is likely a factor. Frequently costs, not just the cost of tuition, but the finances required for books, materials, transportation to and from school and housing are a big factor.

According to Morgan State University’s administrator over student retention efforts, Tiffany Mfume, many students who stopped their college degree program were very close to meeting their financial obligations. In fact, in Mfume’s research, 10 percent of students that put their academic careers on hold until they were able to pay owed less than $1,000. Though income and earnings have stalled for many, the cost of education has continued to escalate. If a $1,000 debt could end a college career for one in ten at Morgan State University, imagine what a financial obligation of much larger sums would do to many others.

A few progressive schools have created programs specifically to address this issue. They identify highly qualified low and middle-income students, using fundraising contributions and other sources of financial aid the goal is to close the financial gap and assure that students begin their college educations and end with a degree in hand. In fact, at Morgan State, a $5 million campaign was launched and the college’s president put his own money were his heart was and pledged $100,000 toward the effort. Bravo to all the visionary schools and administrators who have taken action to remedy this issue at least short term, but let us not forget, wholesale reform is needed to remedy the income inequality issue as it relates to education.

Poised for action and always ready to jump in with a helping hand, Education is Freedom (EIF) is not waiting around for the entire US economic system rewrite to repair the income inequality dilemma. Instead we are taking action to do what we can, while we can and we want you to join us for the inaugural fundraiser aimed at providing 100 scholarships to Dallas’ best and brightest students from 10 Dallas ISD schools. The program entitled, An Evening with the Stars, 2016 Inaugural Scholarship Event will directly support EIF graduating seniors with a personalized scholarship that will cover college costs that are not traditionally covered by financial aid. Join EIF and Highland Capital, the title sponsor, Saturday, May 21st, 5-7pm at the Dallas Zoo to participate. Not able to attend? There are many ways to assist, click here for more information on how you can contribute; no gift is too small to help.

In closing, no one is more aware of the monumental task before the country in finding a remedy to income inequality and its impact on the educational achievement gap than we are. We applaud Morgan State University and other progressive schools that have developed programs to address this pressing issue. But, we also know that to support our vision for the children of Dallas ISD and to live our mission to create well-educated, career ready young adults, we must act now.  The need is great, the time is now, can we count on your support ?

60 by 30 Tex: The State’s New Plan for Higher Education is Big and Bold

Today, in the state of Texas, the highest levels of education in any age group are for those ages 55 to 64. If Texas were its own country, this age group would rank fifth in the world in terms of educational attainment, conversely, those ages 25 to 34 would rank 25th in the world.  The concern is that the older group is on the cusp of retiring. The state is already beginning to see a brain drain and over the next 15 years the problem will only worsen, unless we take action now.

Simply stated the basic vision for the plan is to bolster the skills of the state’s workforce, making Texas an attractive state for enterprise. Earlier this year, Texas’ Higher Education Coordinating Board introduced 60 by 30 Tex (or 60x30TX), a lofty plan developed precisely to address the dwindling workforce ready population and to assure that state based businesses have the resources and skills needed to fuel growth into the middle of this century. The specific goal is to have 60% of Texans between the ages 25 and 34 hold some type of degree or post-secondary certification by the year 2030. By comparison, today this demographic group (people ages 25-to-34) have only a 38% attainment rate.

To crystallize the goals the plan calls for at least 550,000 students in calendar year 2030 to complete a certificate, two-year, four-year or master’s degree from an institution in Texas. Additionally the goal stipulates that all graduates from Texas public institutions will have completed programs with identified marketable skills; and undergraduate student loan debt won’t exceed 60 percent of Texas public institution graduates’ first-year wages.

The new plan urges more success with Hispanic and African-American students who to date have had far lower educational attainment rates versus others.  Since Texas has the highest percentage of black and Hispanic students in the country, finding ways to help these students get into college, stay in college — and pay for it — will be vital to the state’s future.

Critics of the plan might argue that rather than laying out a specific list of actions, it is more a statement of goals. From my perspective, sure it could be a little more prescriptive but I am choosing to focus on the positive. Consistent with EIF’s vision and mission, I am encouraged that among the plans details are specific efforts to make college more affordable and to make it easier for students to access and complete college courses. A few highlights from the plan that caught my attention are as follows:

  • Aggressively promoting college attainment to students and parents prior to high school.
  • Expanding online courses and those that students can take while still in high school.
  • Exploring the possibility of reducing the hours needed to earn a degree — say by reducing required electives — so that students can graduate faster.
  • To help with affordability overall, the Texas Legislature is working to align community college courses so that more would easily transfer to a four-year institution, saving students money.
  • Before the next Legislative session in 2017, officials are also considering allowing a few community colleges to offer bachelor degrees. But care is being taken to develop a process that does not create unnecessary competition with universities.

There is a lot to digest in the new 60x30TX plan and by the authors’ own admission by design, the plan is “Texas-bold and Texas-achievable. Some may say this goal is too great to accomplish, but it must be accomplished – a Texas future without bold action is a Texas without a bold future.”

We will continue to watch for new developments in the state’s plans for higher education. My suggestion is that you too stay tuned; the next 15 years are bound to be choked full of excitement and innovation for higher education in Texas.

Want more details? Click here to read a draft of the full plan.

You’ve Heard of Senioritis, What About Summer Melt? Author: Marcia Page

Seven Tips to Smooth the Transition from High School to College

The first three years of high school went by quickly and the senior year will also, but it will be more exciting and for many, more emotional too. It is a time of many lasts: last first day of high school, last homecoming game, last prom and of course there will be many good-byes to teachers, classmates and your school. Plus there is also extra added time pressure. You’ve heard it many times, you must submit your college and financial aid applications, additionally you will need to plan for graduation, live up to your other commitments, like part-time work and you also need to maintain your grades throughout senior year. (Remember even early college admissions can be rescinded if grades falter.) Developing a plan or schedule, managing your time and staying motivated are critical steps to overcoming senioritis. If you are focused, it will be far easier to be effective keeping the big picture and your goals to attend college in the fall top of mind.

 

While focused on your plans for college, stay in the moment too. Enjoy your graduation– celebrate, you’ve accomplished a major milestone. Just don’t lose your momentum after the big day. You’ve heard Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion, “an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless impacted by an external force”. Well the key here is to beware of external forces or the phenomenon called “summer melt”.

 

Summer melt is the term used to describe when students with college plans the spring before graduation do not make it to campus in the fall…their intentions to attend college melt away during the summer before fall admission. The Summer Melt Handbook, published by Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research, estimates 10 to 40 percent of students planning to attend college do not follow through on their plans. The rates tend to be even higher among students from urban districts, low-income families and for those who are the first in their families to attend college. Even if you think summer melt would never happen to you, it is far too common an occurrence to ignore. Better to have a plan and not need than to need it and not have it. You must be diligent, but do not go it alone, enlist your support network (your family, your high school and college resources such as Education is Freedom).

Follow these seven tips to help you stay on track and develop your own Anti-Summer Melt Playbook:

What you, the senior student, can do:

  1. Sign into your college’s personalized webpage or campus portal, note key dates and take action.
    1. Register and attend the college’s orientation session (this is mandatory for many schools).
    2. Complete placement tests if required.
    3. Check on the status of your financial aid applications and key tuition due dates.
    4. Complete housing forms.
    5. Check on your school’s pre-admission vaccination and health insurance requirements.
    6. Submit any other required paperwork or forms.
  2. Connect with friends also planning to attend college; form a support group and share important news and resources to assure everyone conquers summer melt.

What your family and friends can do:

  1. Your family can help you stay motivated and confident by offering praise and support for your ambitions to attend college and they can help remove obstacles that could hamper your success.
  2. Set aside some time each week to check in with your family; share with family and friends what’s on your mind and ask them to help you come up with solutions to help resolve persistent issues.
  3. If there are questions your family and friends cannot answer, ask a trusted family member or role model to place an inquiry call to the college’s office of Student Affairs to identify additional aid and resources.

What your high school and your college can do to help and what are the resources that may be available to you:

  1. Ask a school counselor (college or high school) for assistance and guidance over the summer to answer questions and serve as your accountability coach.
  2. If your high school or college has a social media (text, email, Facebook or Twitter) program for incoming college freshmen, sign up to have messages delivered directly to your cell phone or email.

You may not have all of these tools available to you, but that’s not a good excuse; leverage the resources you do have. Well timed activities and communications throughout the summer will work wonders to keep you focused and excited to begin college in the fall.

Internships: A Win-Win for Everyone Author: Marcia Page

Today, the demand for educated and skilled labor has never been greater but unfortunately, given the youth employment (or unemployment) crisis we have around the world today, there are far fewer opportunities for young people to gain the required skills.

Historically the summer months were a critical time to earn extra money and gain needed skills. Additionally, summer jobs have been associated with higher graduation rates, better future employment prospects and even higher earnings later in life. But in America over the last 12 years, there has been a 40% decline in the youth summer employment rate. You may think that this phenome only impacts the youth, but the real truth of this employment shortfall has far-reaching consequences, of course for the young people, but also for our communities and the broader economy overall. Couple these statistics with the reality that many companies hesitate to hire high school students because of their preconceived notions that they are too young, require a lot of training and have no value-added skills and it makes for a depressing, although very realistic picture.

It is not a surprise that Internships are good for the person seeking the new experience (especially given the dearth of jobs available to high school and college age students) AND they can also be a boon to employers too. For the employee, an internship can provide a peek into a new career, a field of study, excellent networking in the interns’ chosen field, great on the job experience, and financial literacy as they learn how to manage their paycheck earnings. There are many practical and long term benefits for young people. Plus, consider that the cost of a disenfranchised and disconnected young person just 16 years of age, may add both taxpayer and social burden of $1 million during his or her lifetime according to statistics published in The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth, 2012 . The case seems pretty clear on the value for students, but consider this…internships are great for employers too giving the hiring company the opportunity to build brand awareness among emerging young or established consumers, build a talent pipeline that can be leveraged for years to come and add experience in areas like social media where they may need to bolster their approach to be competitive or where their current staff may have less experience. In short, it is a win-win for everyone.

Research suggests an internship can be a key ingredient to setting a student apart from other applicants. In fact, one study suggested that 90% of all respondents agreed that a high school internship could help students get into better colleges. When it comes to getting a better job after college the differentiator may also be an internship. In both cases, it’s important to stress that students should use internships as an opportunity to stretch their abilities, showcase their willingness to learn new tasks and skills. Plus, take the chance to network with colleagues. Sometimes who you know is just as important as what you know. A well-placed personal referral for a candidate goes miles in terms of breaking the tie between candidates to fill a job opening or used as recommendations for college applications.

Going to College: Be a Face Not an ID # Author: Marcia Page

You’ve heard the old saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well I really don’t like that saying, but in this case it is extremely relevant. As a new college student, whether you are attending a 4-year, 2-year, or trade school, it’s critical that you extend yourself, get out of your comfort zone and get to know the people critical to your success, the resources available to you and how to navigate the school’s system to your best advantage. It is imperative that you become familiar with your school’s online portal where the majority of activities take place such as registering and paying for classes, checking your financial aid award package, and tracking your academic progress.

To get started, use these simple tips on your path to success.

Ensure Academic Success:
• Meet the school dean, the faculty in your major and your faculty advisor if one is assigned.
• Understand the requirements to successfully graduate in your program of study.
• Understand how to schedule classes and the timeline to register, add, drop, change and confirm your class roster for each semester.
• Know how to calculate your grade-point average to assure you are making academic progress.
• Know how to access / use tutoring and other academic services offered by your schools’ Academic Success Center.
• Know how to leverage the assets of the library, learning labs and other resources available to students.
• Once you have a class roster, make yourself acquainted with the teaching assistants and office hours for each of your professors.

Be Financially Responsible:
• Calculate your estimated expenses for tuition and other costs associated with college life and stick to your budget.
• Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine eligibility for financial aid. This must be renewed every year. Know that financial aid may include free grants as well as loans that must be repaid and be careful not to exceed a reasonable debt load.
• Ask about part-time and work-study jobs that may be available on campus to help cover expenses.
• Understand the academic requirements necessary to fulfill the mandates related to your financial aid; in some cases not having satisfactory academic progress could lead to the loss of financial aid.
• Know how to buy new/used textbooks, discounted hardware/software, tools, and supplies through on-campus bookstore or another approved source.

Be Safe and Socially Responsible:
• Understand your rights and responsibilities as a member of the school community. Check for a student’s bill of rights or a similar sort of document that explains what your school expects of you and what you should expect from the school.
• Know the school’s laws and policies, who to call in case of an emergency and how to use on-campus emergency call boxes if they are available.
• If there is an emergency alert system, get familiar with how messages are sent and where to access the most current information online.
• Think before you act; beware of reckless socializing (including online networking, alcohol and drug abuse).
• Know the counseling services that are available to assist you in dealing with personal and academic problems.
• Know how and when to use on-campus health services.

Get and Stay Involved on Campus and in the Local Community
• Become an active student leader and develop skills to build your resume and augment your academic accomplishments.
• Be a good citizen on campus and in the local community.
• Learn about student organizations, Greek Life, and activities outside of class including intercollegiate athletics, club sports, and intramural / extramural programs.

This is not a fully exhaustive list, but it is a good start to a successful college career.

Good Luck!