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March 26
Common Core Update

​A couple of updates-

This month, several colleges became “PARCC Pioneers,” as they made announcements in support of the PARCC assessments as a placement tool to exempt students from remedial courses. Here’s the list of colleges, universities, and systems that have joined so far in the past month:

  • ​Adams State University, CO
  • Aims Community College, CO
  • Illinois Council of Community College Presidents
  • Massachusetts Department of Education, the University of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts state universities and community colleges. 
  • New Jersey Council of County Colleges 
Still at issue, however, is how student scores will be transmitted to colleges and universities. Read more​.

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Teach Plus and the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) administered a survey in 2013 to gain insight into teachers’ perspectives of the Common Core state standards. About 3,000 Massachusetts teachers participated. Here’s a brief summary of recommendations on how best to support teachers in the rollout of the new standards based on the survey results:

  1. ​Provide more formal training on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards to both administrators and teachers.
  2. Make teachers the leaders of professional development learning opportunities on the Common Core State Standards.
  3. Provide more Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exemplars in order to ensure a successful rollout of the new exams. 
  4. Provide more student-centered technology and resources to help students best master the new standards. 

See the report for more detailed suggestions.


For more information about the Common Core State Standards, visit NACAC’s webpage.​ 

March 13
Meet the #Essentials15 Presenter: Jennifer Schoen

jennifer-northeastern.jpgJennifer Schoen
Director of Opportunity Scholarships and Outreach Programs
Northeastern University (MA)

How has your career path led you to become involved in college access?

Accidentally—at first, anyway! When I look back at my first job, I worked at a university that served first-generation students, only we weren't really talking about that population the way we are now. Since 2001, my role has been both in college access and success through the scholarship programs I have been privileged to direct. At the University of Washington, I coordinated both the admission process and retention efforts for about 100 new students per year, all of them first-generation students and from low-income backgrounds. Currently at Northeastern, I direct the selection and retention of about 30 new students per year from that same background. I enjoy helping students work through the admission process to present their best selves in the application, and then seeing their development as they grow during their college career. I only hope the students I've served over the last 14 years have learned as much from me as I have from them.

What makes the Essentials program unique?

It is a day of professional development designed for those in schools who can make a huge impact on the aspirations and readiness of students to get into and through college. As a presenter, I have the opportunity to share what I know, listen to the questions and challenges, and form a partnership to create solutions. As a participant, I will be listening to other presenters and the tips and strategies they offer to those of us interested in improving access and success. 

Why is building college access and success partnerships important?

Because education is a pathway. When there are barriers in any section that prevent college readiness, access is blocked. More importantly, our students don't gain the knowledge and the skills they need to create the future they dream of. There is no other way to build than to share knowledge and experience and create together. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. (Ghanian proverb)

What steps can college counseling professionals take to continue to support college access and success?

Celebrate small wins with your students—the effort to improve a grade, asking for help, using school resources, bouncing back from a setback, setting a goal, reaching a goal, reading about one college of interest, visiting one local college, drafting a personal statement, submitting an application, starting the FAFSA, getting admitted anywhere.

What is your Twitter handle? (If you’re active on Twitter)

@Zinjenzo

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The scholarship program at Northeastern is called the Torch Scholarship. It pays tuition, room and board, books, and fees for a six-week Summer Immersion Program and eight semesters of study at the university. Students also receive wrap-around support services and join a community of scholars. Students who are first-generation, Pell grant eligible and US citizens and permanent residents can apply during their senior year. 
 

March 12
Meet the #Essentials15 Presenter: Dr. Anna L. Green

anna-green.jpgHow has your career path led you to become involved in college access?

I have always wanted to be a teacher and crafted my path in college to prepare to be a college professor and earn a Ph.D. in educational psychology. I have enjoyed working with college students as a psychology professor for over 12 years and decided to leave academia to work with high school students. The path of college readiness for middle and high school students began for me in the Atlanta Public Schools District as a coordinator for College Readiness Programs for middle and high school students. This was exactly what I wanted to do and felt confident in bringing my higher education background to these grade levels.

What makes the Essentials program unique?

The Essentials program has invited scholars at various levels of expertise within their career paths and as practitioners we can share our best practices, toolkits and programming experiences with an audience that works with students first hand in the preparation process for college admission, matriculation and graduation. The title of Essentials leads me to believe that we will be equipped with the essential tools needed to be even more successful in this valued work. 

Why is building college access and success partnerships important?

They are beyond important—they are a package deal to ensure success for families! First thing is to understand what college access means, then explain it to a family of a first-generation college student and then surround this family with the combined support from school, community, and colleges and universities. We are in an age where college access only begins after years of exposure and awareness that must begin in middle school.

What steps can college counseling professionals take to continue to support college access and success?

The first step is to form relationships with the students and their families so information is shared, nurtured, supported, and reiterated from all and to all.  Second, giving students and families options of college and career choices that best fits them. This can only be done from a beneficial relationship that is created, cultivated and celebrated.  Last, professionals (teachers, counselors, administrators) can form support clusters amongst themselves for professional development support, sharing of knowledge and creating a college-career going mindset for their students, families and schools.

What is your Twitter handle? 

@ProjectGRADATL

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I offer advice to my colleagues and myself to not lose sight of what our work means to students and their families and how we can best serve them through learning more and doing more. 

 
March 11
President Obama Announces Student Aid Bill of Rights

Speaking Tuesday at Georgia Tech, President Barack Obama announced the next step in his Administration’s college access agenda: a Student Aid Bill of Rights. The  “bill” not actually legislation, but rather a Presidential Memorandum directing several federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Office of Management of Budget, to implement a series of actions to improve the student loan borrower experience.

A prominent theme throughout the memorandum is interagency coordination. As students and former students are all too well aware, it can be difficult to determine what agency handles which portions of financial aid, oversees institutions or loan servicers, or is otherwise has responsibility for some portion of related oversight. The President's proposal calls for routine communication between agencies to share information and improve customer service. Some highlights of the memorandum include:

Enhanced complaint filing system and database: ​The Department of Education will create a single location for borrowers to file complaints pertaining to federal financial aid, loan servicing (including private loan servicers and collection agencies), and colleges or universities. The system will also allow those who have filed a complaint to follow its progress as the Department processes and resolves the issue. This is due to be in place by July 1, 2016.

Centralized federal student loan repayment portal: The Department of Education will create a central portal for borrowers to repay their federal student loans, regardless of which specific servicer has been assigned to their account. This will be completed as quickly as possible, though no particular date is given.

Improved disclosures​ and consumer protections: In addition to studying and addressing gaps in statutory/regulatory provisions that could be preventing the Department of Education from implementing stronger consumer protections, the President has directed the Department to take some steps already within its authority. By January 1, 2016, the Department will require federal student loan servicers to issue more disclosures to borrowers, including information on transferring loans between servicers, notifications when a loan becomes delinquent, and alerting them to incomplete applications to switch repayment plans. Additionally, servicers will also be directed to apply prepayments (i.e., amounts paid above the monthly minimum) to those loans with the highest interest rate.

Easier use of Income Based Repayment: The Department of Education will work with the Treasury to study the possibility of allowing borrowers to authorize the IRS to release pertinent income information for several years in order to qualify for and determine monthly payment amounts using income based repayment. The two agencies will have their recommendations to the President by October 1, 2105.

A theme of interagency coordination permeates the memorandum, which emphasizes the importance of creating a simplified process of communication with borrowers to reduce confusion about repayment, and, ultimately drive down default rates. Among the measures the President has instructed the agencies to take are establishing a centralized portal for borrower complaints, streamlining the Income Based Repayment certification process, and enhancing consumer disclosures and protections. To learn more about the President’s proposals, consult the White House blog and fact sheet.​

March 10
Improving The Process of Transfer for Students (Continued)

​This post will continue highlighting recent discussion by transfer champion award recipients, exploring transfer issues. Below are some additional insights for working with transfer students, as shared by the panelists at the 2015 conference of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students:

What advice would you give to students who are transferring?

 

  • ​I think one of the lies that transfer students tell themselves is, “I’ve got time,” “I can go explore.” And really the truth of it is, students should start planning their transfer the first semester at community college. 
  • Plan. Review the college’s website and see what they say about transfer students, about the transfer process, about the curriculum, etc. Visit the campus. Get as much information about the new institution as possible. 
  • To get involved and to get involved quickly. Find ways to take ownership of their experience and take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are there. 

 

What’s the biggest mistake you see- either a college preparing students for transfer or an institution that accepts transfer students- in terms of facilitating student transfer?

 

  • ​Ignoring transfer students or viewing them as “second class citizens” (because they aren’t counted in the graduation rate metrics and other reasons). 
  • Making assumptions- whether it’s the students making them when they come in (the ‘been there, done that’ concept) or the institutions making assumptions about transfer students.
  • Not reviewing their policies, programs, and procedures. 
  • Losing sense of what it means to be student-centered. Institutions need to look beyond assumptions and stereotypes that often affect how we understand where students are and how we treat them, accordingly. I think too often I see practitioners and institutional leaders using false assumptions to drive their practice and policies. 
  • Leaving students out of the solution. Some of the best programs that I’ve seen are efforts where students have a voice and have some say in what these programs are, what they should be, and how they could respond to specific problems or challenges. And to the same point, I think empowering faculty and staff to have a role in the decision making process is also very important. 
  • Not getting to student’s soon enough and not getting students connected to the information when they’re most likely to hear it. 

 


Visit NACAC’s Transfer Knowledge Hub​ for more ideas on how to support transfer students.


The 2014-2015 Awardees of the NISTS' Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award are:

 

 

  • ​Thomas J. Grites, Assistant Provost at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
  • Rebecca McKay, Director of Technology at AZTransfer, Arizona’s transfer articulation system.
  • Robert T. Teranishi, Professor of Social Science and Comparative Education, Co-Director of the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education, UCLA. ​
February 24
Improving the Process of Transfer for Students

​Earlier this month, NACAC staff traveled to Atlanta to participate in the annual conference of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students- an entity which strives to improve the lives of transfer students by supporting those who directly serve these students, as well as those who create transfer policy and conduct transfer-related research. 

To highlight just one of the insightful discussions, this post will focus on a panel where conference attendees heard from the latest recipients of the organization’s Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award​. The award is given in recognition of an individual or individuals “who have demonstrated exceptional advocacy and leadership in the development and implementation of transfer-focused activities (e.g., programs, policies, research) which have made a significant contribution to the improvement of transfer student access, persistence, and success.” 

The 2014-2015 Awardees shared many insights in terms of best practices in working with transfer students based upon their experiences in the field. To give a sample of some of this rich discussion, below are brief highlights from responses to a couple of questions exploring transfer issues: 

Give us your idea about what advice you would give to improve transfer for community colleges preparing students for transfer?

  • ​Build relationships between feeder and receiving institutions.
  • Help transfer students be able to self-advise by teaching them how to navigate the tools and technology that are available to them, to help make decisions going forward. 
  • From a student perspective- get transcripts to receiving institutions quicker.

What advice would you give to Baccalaureate institutions receiving transfer students?

  • ​Offer some kind of sustained orientation effort that helps transfer students make the transition (and gives students an instant peer group).
  • Advise students to ask “How many courses do I need to complete my degree at your institution?” instead of asking, “How many credits will you give me for the courses I’ve already taken?”
  • Identify the top feeder schools of your transfer students. Look at the history and trends overtime to have a better understanding of the source of your transfer students and the kind of culture and institutional backgrounds from which these students come from. 
  • Make sure advisors have access to student transcripts as soon as possible. 

Visit NACAC’s Transfer Knowledge Hub​ to browse more best practices in guiding transfer students through transition and check back on the blog for upcoming additional highlights from this discussion.


The 2014-2015 Awardees of the NISTS' Bonita C. Jacobs Transfer Champion Award are:

  • ​Thomas J. Grites, Assistant Provost at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
  • Rebecca McKay, Director of Technology at AZTransfer, Arizona’s transfer articulation system.
  • Robert T. Teranishi, Professor of Social Science and Comparative Education, Co-Director of the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education, UCLA. 


February 06
Meet the #Essentials15 Presenter: Carlos Martinez

carlos-martinez.jpgCarlos Martinez II
Admissions Outreach Officer
The University of Texas at San Antonio
Assisting Undocumented Students with College Applications

How has your career path led you to become involved in college access?

I first became involved with secondary students and their search for college access during my time working for the TRiO Upward Bound Math and Science program as a lead retention specialist. I primarily worked with first-generation high school students from low socio-economic families whose exposure to higher education was limited. The goals and projects created for our students helped them expand their minds to the educational opportunities they had available. The time I spent with my students was rewarding and the experiences were fulfilling because I had the chance to develop relationships with families who now have children currently pursuing higher education. This sense of fulfillment continues now that I am an admissions outreach officer for The University of Texas at San Antonio. As the first-ever regional representative of UTSA for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, I take great pride in connecting students with my institution. This is my second year working in admission and I am passionate about helping high school students pursue their goal of becoming future Roadrunners.

What makes the Essentials program unique?

The Essentials program encourages dialogue between various professionals within the educational field to discuss current topics. Without this kind of opportunity, secondary schools and institutions would mostly communicate on an “as need basis” but this program allows everyone to concurrently talk about the future of academics and how to best plan for student success. 

Why is building college access and success partnerships important?

These two items are essential elements in the admission process. You can’t have one without the other. Students who do not have college access are unaware of the educational opportunities available for them. Establishing a success partnership with your institution allows accessibility and information about the admission process thus better preparing applicants to successfully pursue higher education.

What steps can college counseling professionals take to continue to support college access and success?

Communication with your university admission representative is key. The rapport developed between the counselors and college representatives helps provide students with the tools they need to be admitted into the academic program of their choice. Helping them achieve their educational pursuits is best reached when we work together. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank Kelly Ferrante and everyone at NACAC for this opportunity to be a presenter. I would also like to thank the entire undergraduate admission team at UTSA for allowing me to participate in this great event. Last but not least, I would like to thank my family for their unwavering support. Their struggles to achieve the American Dream have always been my source of inspiration to always do my best and to change this world for the better. I intentionally included a lot of information in my presentation because I want attendees to walk away with tangible information that can be referenced. If we are all well-informed about this process and do our best to bridge this educational gap, our efforts will help change the lives of many students for the better.

February 06
Meet the #Essentials15 Presenter: Tania Rachkoskie

​​tania-rachkoskie-small.jpgTania Rachkoskie (@TMJR731)
Director of Outreach
The Common Application (VA)
Essentials Breakout Session: Using the Common Application


How has your career path led you to become involved in college access?

My first position in higher education was in the admission office at my alma mater as a student of color recruiter. Since then, I have worked in college counseling from both sides of the desk—the high school side and the college side. Throughout my career, I have used the Common Application to explain the college application process as it is the best way to not only apply to college but to learn about the college application process and what colleges value in the process. As the director of outreach for the Common Application, I am able to continue working with students through their counselors as we move forward increasing the number of students who have access to four-year colleges.

What makes the Essentials program unique?

The Common Application is committed to increasing access to college for all students, especially those who are currently underserved. I believe working directly with the school counselors who are “on the ground” working with students can have a significant impact. NACAC is providing an invaluable day of service to school counselors who are taking time from their important work to learn new skills and techniques they will be able to immediately put into action.

Why is building college access and success partnerships important?

We have built strong partnerships with NACAC and other organizations over the last several years. By working together to create unique professional development opportunities for counselors that maximize their time, we believe that we can help improve the services provided to students.

What steps can college counseling professionals take to continue to support college access and success?

Creating and developing a college-going culture within the school can be a transformational step for every school. Building expectations and removing the barriers to success and access is crucial in helping counselors reach students and add to their options for the future.

NACAC and the state and regional affiliates provide conferences, workshops and programs like Essentials to support college counseling professionals in their daily work. These skills can be taken back to their schools and implemented with all of their students.

Common Application member colleges and universities are committed to access, equity and integrity in the college admission process and provide numerous support avenues for counselors and their students.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The Common Application is committed to access and to assisting students in their college process. It is through the attainment of a college degree that people’s lives and the lives of their families are changed. The benefits of completing college are far reaching, it is more than financial—a college degree can serve as a lifeline and create systemic change within a home, a neighborhood and a community.

 
February 05
New IRS Resources on Higher Ed Tax Credits to Help Students, Parents, and Counselors
While actions may speak louder than words, NACAC/PCACAC member and NACAC Government Relations Committee member Jayne Fonash's words were plenty loud when she testified at a June 2014 Senate Committee on Finance hearing, "Less Student Debt from the Start: What Role Should the Tax System Play?" And now, her words have led to action: the IRS has unveiled two resources to help school counselors and students and parents understand and navigate tax credits for higher education.

New Treasury Higher Education Tax Credit Resources 

Ms. Fonash's insightful testimony helped incite the Department of the Treasury to create these one-page, easy-to-understand documents. School counselors are neither tax nor finance experts, but as college costs continue to weigh heavily on families' minds, counselors are increasingly serving as resources for students and parents as they attempt to figure out how pay for higher education. Tax credits alone, for many families, may not be enough to make college completely affordable: both the dollar amount able to be credited and the timing of tax credits makes them imperfect tools for eliminating student borrowing. Nonetheless, tax credits can serve as an important component of a family's financial planning, and, for some families, tax credits could make a measurable difference when it comes to affording college. If the families know about them, that is.

Even when school counselors are well-informed about college financing options, including tax credits, it is not always easy for them to share this information with students and parents. While this challenge is due in large part to unwieldy caseloads, it is also attributable to a dearth of accessible and concise resources. This has been especially true of information pertaining to tax benefits. Particularly for a topic as complex and sensitive as taxes, families and counselors need easily understood information that is vetted by a trusted source--and no one is more well-positioned to be that source than the Internal​ Revenue Service. When asked what one actionable step the federal government could take to improve awareness about higher education tax credits, Ms. Fonash urged the Treasury to create documents to fill this information void. The results are linked above.

NACAC has more information on higher education tax benefits, as well as links to other resources, on its page Missed Opportunities: Higher Education Savings Plans and Tax Benefits​.
January 26
Federal Regulations Protect Students, NACAC Survey Finds

The questions surrounding federal regulations of higher education are many: Should higher education be regulated? By whom? To what extent? Should all colleges face identical regulations, or should regulations vary by type of institution? Whom do regulations benefit -- if anyone at all? With the Higher Education Act up for reauthorization, these and related questions are on the minds of lawmakers. In the 113th Congress, four Senators established a task force to review federal regulations of higher education. The House of Representatives also voted to create an Advisory Committee with a similar charge (the Senate did not pass this bill).

Last Fall, NACAC conducted a survey of its postsecondary membership to find out how admission professionals view federal regulations of higher education. We have shared the survey results with key members of Congress as well as other stakeholders. We hope the results will help lawmakers identify the strengths and weaknesses of federal regulations as they pertain to enrollment management, and give them insight into how these regulations may be improved in any upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Among the takeaways from the survey results​ is the strongly-held belief that federal regulations are an important source of consumer protection. 76% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that federal regulations protect students and taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse. Overall, respondents indicated that federal regulations have little to moderate impact on their day-to-day work; only 16.5% reported that federal regulations have a significant impact on daily workflow. One of the specific regulations discussed in the survey is the Net Price Calculator, which colleges are required to make available on their websites. Reviews of Net Price Calculators were generally critical, with many respondents commenting that that the calculators are not widely used by prospective students and that the results often fail to provide an accurate picture for those students and families who do use the tool. Better visibility and enhanced support to make calculators as accurate as possible were among the suggestions respondents offered to improve the usefulness of Net Price Calculators.

You may read a summary of the survey results here​. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact NACAC's Public Policy & Government Relations staff by e-mailing legislative@nacacnet.org. We will update membership about any developments related to the Higher Education Act reauthorization process, which may begin later this Spring.

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