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NACACNet > Collaboration & Networking > Blogs and Communities > Admitted Blog
February 12
Report: Costly Textbooks Price Some Students Out of College

booksUSE.jpgTrying to estimate college costs?

Don’t forget to include books. Over the past decade, the cost of a college textbook has increased by 73 percent, according to new national data.

“Today, individual textbooks often cost over $200, sometimes as high as $400,” notes a report released earlier this month by Student Public Interest Research Groups — a collection of independent statewide organizations. 

The finding is based on survey results of nearly 5,000 students from 132 US colleges and universities.
“In comparison with the tens of thousands of dollars spent on tuition or board, a few hundred dollars for textbooks is often overlooked, and written off as negligible,” report authors note. “However, research shows that comparatively small amounts of money can have a disproportionate impact: at Morgan State University, a study showed that 10 percent of students dropping out for financial reasons owed the university less than $1,000.”

The report encourages colleges to adopt textbooks and other materials that carry an open license, such as the Creative Commons license. Public access to such materials is free.

“In the current environment, it’s clear today’s textbook prices are no longer just an inconvenience — they are high enough to be a significant barrier to college enrollment,” report authors note.

Read the full report.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

February 11
#NACACreads Author: Access and Success for Low-Income Students Starts with Understanding

hold_fast_to_dreams_pb_350.jpgIt takes more than generous financial aid packages to get first-generation students to and through college.

Make no mistake: Monetary support is crucial. But college counselors on both sides of the desk also need to understand the structural inequalities that define the lives of many low-income teens.
That was the message author and public school counselor Joshua Steckel shared with participants during Wednesday’s online #NACACreads chat. His book, Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vision of a Life Beyond Poverty, follows 10 young people from New York City as they apply to colleges and go on to pursue higher education.

Early on in the discussion, Steckel (who co-wrote Hold Fast to Dreams with Beth Zasloff) named some of the challenges his students faced during the college admission process.

Housing insecurity, a lack of access to technology, responsibility for family members, and limited resources — “even for the littlest things” — topped his list.
“Too many students (are) living life uphill,” he noted. “…Moving forward always takes extraordinary effort.” As a result, he said, too many students believe college isn’t a choice for them.

During the remaining portion of the hour-long Twitter chat, college counselors and admission professionals from around the globe shared strategies to help underrepresented students navigate the application process, and eventually, find success on a college campus.

Advice included:
• “Be proactive with students. They may not know the questions to ask. Remind of deadlines, touch base often. Be there.” — Jillian Hiscock, national partnerships manager, College Possible (MN)
• “Colleges can offer trips to campus focused on first generation students explaining their resources and what to expect.” — Mia Bradford, college access professional (TX)
• “If counselors had a similar experience in college, it’s important to share your story. The real connection is critical.” — Yolanda Norman, founder, FirstGenCollege Consulting (TX)
• “Be honest about the options. If a school is too expensive/not a good fit, help guide students to a better fit. Don’t trap them.” — Steve Jenks, admission counselor, Ithaca College (NY)

As an added bonus, two of the students featured in the book — Mike Forbes and Abigail Benavente — joined the chat. Forbes now works at Skidmore College (NY), his alma mater, and is pursuing a graduate degree at University at Albany (NY). Benavente is a recent graduate of Hunter College (NY).

Both were the first in their families to earn a college degree. Forbes struggled with homelessness as a teen, and health concerns created barriers for Benavente.

Despite those challenges, both Forbes and Benavente said the support they received from caring adults like Steckel kept them on track.

Being the first in your family to graduate from college is a huge undertaking, Benavente told #NACACreads participants.

But, she added: “It’s a sacrifice you are willing to take when the people you count on show you how far you can get.”

Read the full chat transcipt.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

February 10
‘Pushy Moms’ Help Students Transfer to 4-Year Schools

pushymomuse.jpgNever underestimate the power of a determined parent.

That’s the philosophy guiding Pushy Moms — a program aimed at increasing the number of LaGuardia Community College grads who continue their education at four-year schools.
Many students who attend classes on LaGuardia’s New York City campus are first-generation college students who don’t have family members who can help them sort through the often-complex transfer process, according to a recent article published by The Hechinger Report.

Pushy Moms pairs high-performing students with women from Manhattan who helped their own children apply to college, said Karen Dubinsky, LaGuardia’s chief engagement officer.

The group, now in its second application season, has worked with more than two dozen students. Program participants have gone on to enroll at City University of New York schools, as well as private institutions including Amherst College (MA) and Syracuse University (NY).
“Many of the mothers were initially nervous because they thought they didn’t know enough to help,” according to the article. “Dubinsky reassured them by explaining that they are not expected to be guidance counselors.”

“Their role is to support,” she said.

Learn more about Pushy Moms and check out NACAC’s Transfer Knowledge Hub.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

February 09
Join Wednesday's #NACACreads Chat with Author Joshua Steckel

hold_fast_to_dreams_pb_300.jpgWhat does it take to get low-income, first-generation students to — and through — college?

Discuss that question and more Wednesday during a #NACACreads Twitter chat focused on Hold Fast to Dreams: A College Guidance Counselor, His Students, and the Vison of a Life Beyond Poverty by Beth Zasloff and Joshua Steckel.

The discussion will kick off at 9 p.m. (ET). Use the #NACACreads hashtag to join the conversation.

Hold Fast to Dreams follows a group of ten students from New York’s inner-city as they apply to schools, make decisions about where to enroll, and juggle academic challenges and familial responsibilities while pursuing a college degree.

Steckel, who counseled all the students featured in the book, will participate in the discussion.

Haven’t had a chance to read the book yet? You can still participate. Check out this Higher Ed Live segment previewing Wednesday's chat, then join colleagues from across the country for an important discussion about college access and success.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

February 08
Reminder: Keep an Eye on Financial Aid Deadlines

FAFSA deadline use.jpgNeed financial aid for the 2016-17 academic year?

The US Department of Education is reminding students to remain cognizant of deadlines when completing the FAFSA.

While the FAFSA is primarily used to award federal financial aid, many colleges, states, and scholarship programs also use the form to assess eligibility for their aid programs.
“All these entities award their financial aid money differently, and at different times,” according to a recent post on the department’s Homeroom blog. “…By missing deadlines, you take yourself out of the running for money you might otherwise get. Some states and colleges continue awarding aid to FAFSA latecomers, but your chances get much slimmer, and the payout is often less if you do get aid.”

The Department of Education encourages students to keep these financial aid deadlines in mind:

• College Deadlines: “These deadlines vary from school to school, but they usually come well before the academic year starts, many in the neighborhood of early spring,” according to Homeroom. “If you’re applying to multiple colleges, be sure to look up each school’s FAFSA deadline and apply by the earliest one.”

• State Deadline: “This deadline varies by state and can be as early as Feb. 15,” the blog notes. “States often award aid until they run out of money — first come, first served — so apply early.” View your state’s deadline.

• Federal Deadline: The 2016-17 FAFSA is available through June 30, but some federal programs have limited funds.

The bottom line? “Plan to get your FAFSA in by the earliest of all the deadlines for your best crack at college money,” the blog notes.

Learn more about paying for college.
To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

February 05
For Better or Worse, Geography Shapes College Choice

kids on campusUSE.jpgWhere students live matters — especially when it comes to college enrollment, according to a paper released this week by the American Council on Education.

Despite increases in online degree programs, research shows that individuals who live in communities with a limited number of brick-and-mortar colleges are constrained in their educational choices.

“Not all students have the luxury of shopping around, and in many cases…there are no alternatives from which to choose,” notes the report. “From this vantage point, college choice may be less a function of students’ ‘college knowledge’ and more a function of proximity and place.”

Data show that home is less than 50 miles away for 57 percent of incoming freshmen at four-year public institutions. And past research has established that the further a student lives from a college or university, the less likely they are to enroll.

“Place matters even more for today’s students, many of whom work full-time, care for dependents, and have close social ties to their communities,” report authors note.

The paper goes on to identify “education deserts” — locations with no or limited options for higher education. In some cases, a flagship public university is situated within a desert. But because of highly selective admission standards, enrolling in the institution isn’t a viable option for many nearby residents.

“If we truly want to improve postsecondary attainment levels, then we should not simply try to nudge students to make ‘better choices’ about where to attend,” according to report authors. “We need to also consider the supply and capacity of colleges and universities — where they are located, whether they are serving their local communities, and the roles geography and place have in shaping students’ choices.”

Learn more about recruiting adult students.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

February 04
Report: Number of Hispanic-Serving Institutions Climbs

latino_graduse.jpgThe number of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) continues to grow, according to a recent report.

HSIs are accredited, degree-granting schools where a least a quarter of the student body is Hispanic. Data show that 435 US colleges and universities met that definition in 2014-15 — an increase of 26 institutions when compared to the previous academic year. The category includes both two- and four-year colleges.

Roughly two-thirds of Latino undergraduates attend an HSI, according to the report compiled by Excelencia in Education. The Washington, DC-based group works to accelerate educational success for Hispanic students.

“The trend we are seeing is increased Latino student enrollment, and more concentrated enrollment,” Deborah Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia said in a press release. “… With 62 percent of Latinos enrolled in HSIs, the role of these institutions in retaining and graduating Latinos to meet our national needs for an educated workforce and citizenry is critical.”

The number of HSIs has doubled over the last two decades, and now account for for 13 percent of all higher ed institutions. But HSIs are still limited in their reach. In 2014-15, HSIs could be found 18 states and Puerto Rico. The colleges enrolling the largest numbers of Latino students were located in California, Texas, and Florida.
Read the full report, and learn more about the role college counseling plays in the lives of Latino and other underrepresented students.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted​ writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at
February 03
ICYMI: Obama Proposes Changes to Pell Grant Program

​​studentpellUSE.jpgStudents who use the Pell Grant to help pay for school may soon have access to additional funds.

The Obama administration has proposed that an extra $2 billion be allocated to the program in fiscal year 2017. The expansion would create incentives that encourage on-time college completion.

• Under the Pell for Accelerated Completi​on proposal, full-time students would have access to three semesters of Pell Grant funding each year. The amendment would allow students to take summer courses, helping them to finish their degree in a shorter time period.

• Under the On-Track Pell Bonus proposal, students who take at least 15 credits per term would see their maximum award amount increase by $300.

“(F)ar too many students never complete their degree — only 60 percent of those enrolled in a bachelor’s program complete their education,” according to a fact sheet released by the US Department of Education. “...The two new Pell proposals will help students accelerate progress towards their degrees by attending school year-round and encourage students to take more credits per term, increasing their likelihood of on-time completion.”

The proposals will be included in the president’s budget, set to be released next week.

Both measures require congressional approval, according to a recent Bulletin article.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

February 02
#NACACreads Author: ‘Quality School Counseling Shouldn’t be a Luxury’

steckel475.png#NACACreads author Joshua Steckel sought a job in New York City’s public school system nine years ago because he wanted to help low-income teens access higher education.

In Hold Fast to Dreams Steckel and co-author Beth Zasloff seek to further that work, this time by spotlighting the barriers first-generation and minority students face in the college admission process.

The awarding-winning book — the topic of next week’s #NACACreads online chat— follows 10 students as they make their way to and through college. One teen struggles with homelessness. Others face food insecurity and live surrounded by violence.

“We wrote this book because it was our sense that the experiences of many of the students that I was working with…were not really visible in the larger conversations around college admissions,” Steckel said Monday during an interview with Higher Ed Live. “On both sides of the desk — as school counselors and in student services and admissions — it’s incredibly important to have an awareness of the kinds of inequalities that are defining many students’ experiences.”

Hold Fast to Dreams, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Award, was written in partnership with the students featured in the book. As much as possible, their stories are told in their own words. Steckel’s memories and insights are intertwined, offering a unique perspective on college access and success in the US.

New to Twitter chats? Check out this helpful guide and read a transcript of the last #NACACreads chat.
The book also highlights the important role counselors play in helping first-generations students pursue their college dreams. In addition to assisting with applications and college visits, Steckel helps students access financial aid.

“Quality school counseling shouldn’t be a luxury,” Steckel told Higher Ed Live. “…Quality school counseling should include work to help students get to college and be set up for success when they are there.”

The interview served as a preview for next week’s official #NACACreads discussion of Hold Fast to Dreams. The hour-long Twitter chat will kick off at 9 p.m. (ET) on Feb. 10. Steckel, who continues to work as a public school counselor, will participate in the discussion.

To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at
February 01
National School Counseling Week Kicks Off Today

NSCW475.jpgIt’s time to celebrate.

National School Counseling Week kicks off today. The annual five-day event, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), highlights the many ways counselors help students succeed in the classroom and beyond.

This year’s festivities got an early start. NACAC member Katherine Pastor, of Flagstaff High School (AZ), was honored at the White House last week as the 2016 School Counselor of the Year.
Beginning today, fun photo contests and local events are scheduled across the country, making this week the perfect time for school counselors to reflect on the profession they love.

Here are some of the many reasons NACAC’s school counselors enjoy the work they do:

“Although our work is cyclical, I have a new group of students each year and for them, this is a brand-new process. The admission landscape also continues to change so I am never sitting still, I am constantly learning and I am never bored.”
Anna Takahashi, director of college counseling, Eastside College Preparatory School (CA)

"Helping students overcome obstacles to achieve greater success, empowering them to make good decisions, motivating them to realize their full potential, and assisting them with their college and career planning are some of the best parts of my role."
 — Rob Lundien, teacher-counselor, Staley High School (MO)

“I am genuinely lucky to work in a profession where I can work with talented students as they move through the admission process and to learn of their accomplishments as they progress in life…To see students flourish and take full advantage of their opportunities makes my career choice much more rewarding.”
Juan Acosta, associate director of college guidance, Saint Andrew’s School (FL)

“My path to college counseling was heavily influenced by my love of working with high school aged students. I was incredibly lucky to have transformative personal and academic experiences at multiple institutions. I understand that this was in large part due to good guidance and counseling at all points in my education. It is incredibly fulfilling to have the opportunity now to help others find institutions that match their passions and strengths.”
Erin Lyman, college counselor, Northfield Mount Hermon School (MA)

What motivates you? Share your story in the comment section below.
To comment on this post, sign into the NACAC website (see top left corner of this page). Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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