The Cost and the Value of Education

Julia Lawrence’s recent article in Education News (“Americans Opinion of Higher Ed System at Record Lows”) suggests we have lost some traction with the public. Concerns over the cost of education have been a longstanding concern (rightfully so) but recently, more and more members of the community are wondering about the value of education. This is new and needs to be addressed by all of us in higher ed. My question (for my Crafton Hills friends/colleagues in particular) is as follows. Imagine a single mom is thinking about sending her child to Crafton. She is going to pay for everything (books, tuition, food, housing, etc.) but she is not certain if it will be worth it. What do you tell her? What will her son or daughter experience at Crafton that merits the cost?

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Closing the Gap

Rebell’s recent article in Education Week (Rebell, Michael A. “Racial Equity 50 Years After King’s Speech.”) talks about progress with regard to the “achievement gap” in higher ed. He points out that students of color made some strong academic progress immediately after the Civil Rights Movement, but improvement has been flat for the last three and a half decades. This is frustrating. How are we not resolving this issue in higher ed? Here’s my questions for you, “What are the qualities of a higher ed experience that resonate with students of color in particular?”

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Spirituality and Success

One common trait that is often found in successful people is a well-developed and mature spiritual life. This most often comes through a religious practice of some sort, but it can be found in very secular lifestyles as well. I feel like this is known and understood by my friends and colleagues; however, most of them seem to recoil at the idea of discussing spirituality in public institutions. It seems to me we should promote spiritual development if we want students to become well-rounded and successful human beings. I am not talking about endorsing any particular expression of spirituality here–no official religion. But I am talking about the idea of making spiritual develop something we actively weave into our institutional goals, classroom instruction, campus activities, and general college life. Any thoughts?

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Leaving Home

In A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Payne looks at the difficulties associated with moving from poverty to the middle class. She suggests that “. . . in order to move from poverty to middles class or from middle class to wealth, one must trade off some relationships for achievement at least for a period of time (Payne 65).” At points in the book, she goes so far as to say one must break off ties with friends and family during the transition from poverty to middle class, adding that once you have established yourself in the middle class, you can revisit former relationships.

Her argument feels extreme at times, but it underscores the need for students to join the academic community–especially students that are coming from families with lower levels of education. I’m not so sure it is critical to break relationships, but I am certain that students from lower SES backgrounds need to form new relationships with faculty, students and college personnel if they are to have a successful college experience.

My question goes out to faculty and staff that work at commuter schools serving lower income students. How do you get your students to transition from their pre-college network of relationships to a new network of relationships at the college?

See more ideas at www.cerritos.edu/ifalcon.

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Building Relationships with Lower SES Students

First generation college students and lower SES college students often come to us with relationship deficits (Payne 107-117). What Payne means by this is while they are just as likely to come from backgrounds with loving relationships, they are less likely to have relationships that can help them with cognitive strategies, college coping skills, goal setting, etc. The implication is that building relationships with lower SES students is critical to their success. In fact, when ” . . . students who have been in poverty (and have successfully made it into middle class) are asked how they made the journey, the answer nine times out of 10 has to do with a relationship–a teacher, counselor, or coach who made a suggestion or took an interest in them as individuals (Payne 110).” This need is partly why there is so much positive literature around the simple act of memorizing students’ names. Knowing a student’s name is a first step toward building a relationship. Building a relationship is a critical step toward helping students (particularly lower SES students) succeed.  

How do we consciously create an environment where students are compelled to develop rich relationships with faculty, staff, managers and each other? How do we measure and track this? What are the policies we need to shape the goals and limits of these relationships?

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Student Resources

Academic success for college students correlates closely and directly to student resources. As student resources decline, academic performance declines (Payne 87). This is an important concept to grasp if higher education is to be a leveler or equalizer in society, because students from upper SES backgrounds routinely come to college with more resources than students from lower SES backgrounds. Be definition they have greater financial support, more stability via higher levels of home ownership and lower levels of divorce, greater support for college attendance because of education levels, and more. And not only do they come to college with more resources, but they also tend to attend colleges and universities with greater resources for success–better facilities, more private aid, deeper alumni connections, higher quality library collections, more expansive computing resources, and more. This often mean that colleges who serve lower SES students are serving students that have resource inequities at two levels. Their personal resources are lesser and their college provided resources are often lesser than the resources available to their higher level SES counterparts. 

This has always felt like the same old “separate but equal” problem Brown v. Board of Education was supposed to address.  

Q: Do you know of anyone working to rectify this? How do you recommend we approach this issues? What strengths do lower SES students bring that we can leverage for success?

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Matching Students with Campus Groups

On Sunday, our minister announced a new online service called GroupMatch (www.groupmatch.org). The goal of the service is to help individuals that attend the church find various groups at the church they may like to join. Looking to help with the food bank–go to GroupMatch. Want to find a women’s Bible study–go to GroupMatch. You get the idea.

The announcement prompted a thought. Are there similar services available for colleges and universities? Literature is pretty solid on the finding that College students need to get plugged into their campus communities if they are going to be successful; however, it is often difficult for new students to find their groups. This is why so many students experience a case of mild depression during their first few months.  I know Facebook and Myspace have dedicated group areas and I thought there would be a few sites dedicated to this service; however, a simple Google search does not yield as many resources as I assumed would exist.

Q: Do you know of any  best practices in this area? Do you know of model examples where Facebook or Myspace are used for organizing, promoting and finding campus groups? Any particularly good examples from offices of student activities?

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