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higher education

woman in cap and gown
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Earning a college degree can create a pathway to a better job, higher wages and overall improved quality of life. Studies show that college graduates earn significantly more money throughout their lifetime people with just a high school degree.

Stack of money
Pictures of Money / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State funding for higher education in the U.S. is showing continued growth overall. That's according to the results of the latest Grapevine survey, an annual compilation of data on state fiscal support for higher education.

State funding rose by 3.4% across the U.S. from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 fiscal years. James Palmer is a professor of higher education at Illinois State University and Grapevine Editor.

user John Patrick Robichaud / flickr

We've said it before, but it bears repeating: filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, or the FAFSA, can be a pain in the butt. But at this point, there's no way around it. If you're hoping to get some federal grants or financial aid to help offset the costs of college, then you're going to have to fill it out.

As my colleague Dustin Dwyer noted in a story he did earlier this year, even the U.S. Department of Education acknowledges there are serious problems with our country's financial aid system.

hmm360/morguefile

If you want to make it in America, the standard advice is, go to college. People who get at least a bachelor's degree are more likely to be employed, they have higher wages on average, and they're more likely to make it out of poverty. 

But the benefit of a college degree may be reaching a plateau. 

Last week, The Hamilton Project (part of the Brookings Institution) held a conference on the future of work. The conference was meant to be about how technology may change employment opportunities in the years to come. But along the way, education came up again and again. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

It’s a frigid Thursday morning in Jonesville, a small town southwest of Jackson. Bob Drake is trying his best not to make a mistake.

"It has to be exact from what you put on your taxes," Drake explains. 

Drake is a counselor at Jonesville High School. He’s helping a parent, Joy Sutton, fill out her son’s FAFSA.

"Yeah, it’s kind of finicky," Drake continues.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Here is a fact you might not know: In the decade between 2003 to 2013, no other state cut its spending on college scholarships as much as Michigan. Only six states had cuts at all. But Michigan cut the most. And it wasn’t even close.

The state-by-state comparison comes from a little-noticed annual report released by the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs.

But the reason behind Michigan’s cut is well-known. 

This is a story from last year, but it's one that has particular relevance for me now as I delve into stories about first generation college students. In this article, Paul Tough talks about what the University of Texas at Austin is doing to retain first generation, low-income students. It's a long article, but I urge you to read the whole thing. Especially the part about the videos these students have to watch when they get to campus; the videos convey "a simple message about belonging," but they make a huge impact on the students' success.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 

Mark Jackson settles into his chair, and takes a sip of coffee. He’s been in interviews all morning, meeting with high school students and parents interested in enrolling at Wayne State University through the APEX program, which Jackson oversees.

Jackson tells me he’s worked in college academic advising for 35 “some-odd” years, at six different institutions.

And he loves the work.

“You know, we’re helping change the world here,” he says. “People think I say that tongue-in-cheek. No, I’ve seen it happen.”

 Jackson begins to tell me a story of a student he met in Chicago years ago.

Washington Post

Jennifer Guerra and Dustin Dwyer are both working on stories about low income kids and college. 

greenandgold.uaa.alaska.edu / Creative Commons

It's important to go to college, we get it.

Kids in foster care get it, too. Almost all of them say they want to go to college. But only one in five actually does. Of those students who do make it on campus, less than 9% graduate.

What's going on here?

Applying for college is a hard process for any student. It involves formulating a (possibly very expensive) multi-year plan to get a degree and plan your entire future. These choices are being made by 16-year-old high school juniors before their brains have even had a chance to fully develop.

The reality is, most kids in foster care are coming from low-income communities. It's hard enough as it is for kids in those communities to make it to college. Even high-achieving kids at low-income schools have a hard time navigating the steps to get to college. 
There are tons of great resources about college access on the Internet, even for kids in care. But this information often doesn't make it to the kids who need it. 

Where the system breaks down in sending kids in foster care to college

  • First things first. To make it to college, you have to be able to graduate from high school. For kids in foster care, who may change schools frequently and deal with inconsistent curriculum, this is hard enough.  

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