Legislative Update: Affiliates Ramp Up Advocacy Efforts

After last month’s successful Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, advocacy efforts within many NACAC affiliates are on the rise.

Over the past several months, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee have hosted SACAC legislative days. Because SACAC is a regional affiliate, advocacy days take place in specific states, allowing members to meet with their own legislators and impact students where they live.

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Report: Rural-Urban Gap in College Completion Grows

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The rural-urban gap in college completion continues to grow, with fewer than one in five adults in rural communities holding a four-year degree, according to a new report from the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Between 2000 and 2015, the share of urban adults with at least a bachelor’s degree grew from 26 percent to 33 percent, while in rural areas the share grew from 15 percent to 19 percent,” report authors note. “Therefore, the urban-rural gap in the share of adults with bachelor’s degrees grew from 11 to 14 percentage points.”

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Imagine Grant Helps California Students Explore College Majors and Careers

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It’s a scenario counselors know well: A student proudly announces they’re applying to college and plans to study physics.

So far so good. But then comes the kicker. What does the student hope to do with their degree? Cure cancer.

But as many counselors know, a degree in biology or in the health sciences offers a more direct route to cancer research, said Nicole Murphy, director of college access and financial aid strategies with PUC Schools, a California nonprofit charter school organization serving students in Northeast Los Angeles and the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

So this spring, Murphy launched a new initiative aimed at helping teens make connections between their interests and the college search process. Thirty industry experts and college department heads shared their insights with students during PUC’s inaugural College Majors & Careers Event in March.

The event, which served 520 high school juniors, was supported by a $1,000 grant from NACAC’s Imagine Fund.

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Rates of Anxiety Continue to Increase Among College Students

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For the seventh straight year, anxiety was the top concern of students seeking mental health services on campus, according to a survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.

Data show that 51 percent of college students who visited an on-campus counseling center in 2015-16 reported struggling with anxiety. The other most common concerns were depression (41 percent), relationship issues (34 percent), suicidal ideation (20.5 percent), self-injury (14 percent), and alcohol abuse (10 percent).

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Study: Having a Black Teacher Can Help Keep Black Kids in School

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Low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are more likely to graduate from high school and consider attending college, according to a new working paper published by the Institute of Labor Economics.

Being assigned to a classroom led by a black teacher in in third, fourth, or fifth grade reduced a student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found.

And the positive effects were even greater among low-income black boys, whose likelihood of dropping out fell by 39 percent.

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YesU: New App Helps Families Navigate the Financial Aid Process

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Courtesy Photo

New York Times bestselling author Wes Moore launched BridgeEdU with one goal in mind: To increase college access and completion rates for low-income and first-generation students.

The program, which began in Baltimore in 2014, uses a high-tech, high-touch academic support model to help students transition during their first year of college. But as Moore and his staff quickly discovered, the complex process of applying for financial aid can create roadblocks for even the most motivated students.

Case in point? Although all members of the inaugural class of BridgeEdU scholars reported that they had applied for financial aid, the staff soon discovered that a whopping 75 percent hadn’t completed the FAFSA, and most of the students had not created accounts with Maryland’s state grant agency.

The experience inspired BridgeEdU staff to create YesU —  a mobile app released in 2016 that offers customized step-by-step support to students across the nation as they apply for financial aid.

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Reminder: Beware Potential FAFSA Scams

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The Department of Education has always advised caution when working with third-parties on FAFSA completion, and is urging additional vigilance going forward given the unavailability of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).

Representatives from the IRS and the Office of Federal Student Aid suspended the service in March out of concern that it could be misused by identity thieves. The tool, which many students use when applying for federal aid, is not expected to be restored until fall 2017.

There are reports that some students and families have been scammed by individuals seeking to take advantage of this situation by charging families for help filing the FAFSA and/or stealing the families’ personal information for illicit use.

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Join NACAC for a Facebook Live Q&A

fblivetwitpic-002Former First Lady Michelle Obama made college access a priority during her time in the White House.

Tune in April 27 at 12:30 p.m. ET to discover how the Reach Higher and Better Make Room initiatives will continue her work, and get a sneak peek into what’s planned for this year’s College Signing Day.

We’ll be broadcasting from NACAC headquarters via Facebook Live with special guest Eric Waldo. Waldo, executive director of Reach Higher, is now part of Civic Nation — a nonprofit, non-partisan group that uses organizing, engagement, and public awareness to address some of the nation’s most pressing issues, including initiatives launched by the Obama White House.

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Student View: Changes Needed to Support College Applicants with Disabilities

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Colleges must do more to provide and improve accommodations for students with disabilities, grad student Valerie Piro wrote in a recent essay published by Inside Higher Ed.

Piro, who uses a wheelchair and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, highlighted the challenges she faced when touring colleges as a high school student.

At one university, she had to use a makeshift wooden ramp to navigate a short flight of stairs. At another school, her prospective residence hall was located at the bottom of a steep hill and the college’s dorm rooms were much too small to accommodate her physical therapy equipment.

“Physical space and a well-functioning infrastructure on a campus cannot be overlooked, especially when one has a disability,” wrote Piro, who is paralyzed from the chest down. “What better way to tell a wheelchair user that they don’t belong at a college or university than by strewing the campus with stairs, broken help buttons, and pitiful excuses for ramps?”

Continue reading Student View: Changes Needed to Support College Applicants with Disabilities

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