Category Archives: Access

Unintended Consequences

By: Rafael Figueroa

Editor’s note: In August 2020, NACAC released a report urging colleges and universities to examine their policies and practices concerning standardized tests and their potential impact on equity and access. This column is the first in a series of articles reflecting on the report’s recommendations and offering insight into the current state of standardized admission testing.

The decision most colleges made to go test-optional last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic was the right one to get us through an unprecedented crisis. But such a fundamental shift in college admission left a great deal of uncertainty in the minds of students and counselors alike. As a test center, Albuquerque Academy, an independent day school in New Mexico, worked hard to offer the SAT and ACT as soon as we could safely do so.

But telling the story of how one remarkable and dedicated colleague was able to orchestrate our first testing date after the state shut down raises again the question voiced last year by the NACAC Task Force on Standardized Admission Testing for International and US Students in its report: What is the real cost of standardized testing, and who bears the burden?

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Supportive School Communities Promote College Readiness: Reflections from a Public School Educator

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School year 2021-22 will be a watershed return to the classroom for all school communities. For a sense of context, think back to your own college application journey. Compare that to what high school students will experience this fall.

In spring of 1985, I’d failed the on-the-road driver’s license test for the second time and was homebound. Madonna and Tears for Fears played in a loop on MTV, and my older sister terrorized and hazed me at every opportunity. I was a junior in high school who needed to interview a family member for an assignment about potential careers.

I opened the door to my father’s den. “Dad, I need to interview a family member for homework.” “Ok,” he said sitting at his desk. “What career do you think would be good for me?” I asked. He thought about it and resolutely said, “Shopping. Something with shopping.”  I winced. As a bookish A and B student with a small circle of artsy, awkward friends my dad’s response confirmed he was clueless. “Why do you say that?” I followed up. Encircled by bookshelves and work-league baseball and bowling trophies, my dad smiled and responded: “You’re good at it.”

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New Campaign Seeks to #DoublePell

A new national campaign is underway to increase federal financial aid for low- and moderate-income students.

The aim of #DoublePell is simple. Supporters want to double the maximum Pell Grant, a move that would allow a student’s annual award to top out at $13,000.

A new website, doublepell.org, offers more information about the proposal and includes a customizable letter that students, families, and others can send to their members of Congress to communicate support for the increase.

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NACAC View: Bans on Critical Race Theory are Harmful to Students and Educators

By Crystal E. Newby and David A. Hawkins

To say race relations in the United States have been tumultuous over the last year is an understatement. Many Americans and individuals worldwide watched the horrific footage of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in May 2020. And although one of his killers has since been convicted and jailed, we continue to watch the loved ones of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor fight for justice. It seems like every day there is an incident in the news where a Black student is forced to cut their hair to compete in a sporting event or to walk in their high school graduation ceremony. There have even been instances when white educators made derogatory remarks toward students of color when they thought no one was listening.

Just recently, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was denied tenure at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for a role in which it’s traditionally granted. Many allege the decision was due to her extensive involvement in the 1619 Project—an initiative of The New York Times Magazine that analyzes how slavery shaped American political, social, and economic institutions. These events are just a small sample of what BIPOC individuals face daily, yet some state officials have proposed banning discussions of systemic racism in schools, particularly any context of critical race theory (CRT).

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Walking the Virtual Quad: How to Build a Thriving Enrollment Community

By Katy Kappler, Co-Founder and CEO, InScribe, and Dr. Jonathan Huck, Research Scientist, WGU Labs

The decision to apply to college, even for older students, can be a lonely, high-stakes journey. Price tags are often shrouded in mystery. Outcomes for graduates can be vague. And confusing terms (registrar, bursar, oh my!) appear at every turn.

These challenges, however, are often mitigated at traditional universities, where students can find answers and build a sense of connection with an institution by walking its grounds, smelling its flowers, and taking lively tours. Unfortunately, these advantages are absent in the online learning space.

How, then, to foster a sense of belonging among applicants who may never set foot on a physical campus? We met this challenge through a recent pilot at Western Governors University (WGU), where we created a virtual community for prospective students to connect with peers, staff, and alumni before deciding to enroll.

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Rethinking the Admission Process 

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We’ve just passed the point in the higher education admission cycle where, traditionally, college applicants receive a flurry of decisions all at once—an increasingly stressful time for students that often coincides with spring break. It caused me to think about how we do business and I was encouraged to learn that, in conjunction with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), NACAC has launched a commission “to reimagine financial aid and college admission in the pursuit of racial equity in postsecondary education.” It is intended to rethink everything.
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Bridging the Gap Between Curriculum and Career

Students don’t graduate for many reasons, but one critical reason, within an institution’s power to change, is that students don’t see a connection between their studies and a possible career. Way too often higher education relegates career preparation to select majors, separate classes, and special offices on campus. But breaking down these barriers helps all students succeed.

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The College Transition: Tips for Students with Disabilities

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Preparation is key for all college-bound students, but thinking through what you’ll need to be successful is especially important for students with disabilities.

Here are some ideas and insights to help you settle into college.

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Reframing the ‘Lost’ College Visit

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Editor’s note: A version of this column was first published by the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools.

As we find ourselves in pandemic spring 2.0, college visiting is not possible for the majority of juniors just beginning their college journeys and seniors finalizing enrollment plans. When my mother was alive she would say, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.”  Her sound advice reminds me to invert the problem of canceled college tours. Instead of wringing hands over the lost college road trip, we can emphasize the opportunity facing institutions and students. Covid is inviting us to reinvent college discovery and student engagement.

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